Arguing The Media

 

After watching the State of the Union Address on CBS, on February 5th 2019, by President Donald Trump, I noticed the usual bashing or praising of his speech by various broadcasting stations. Before you disregard this post as biased to one side or the other, or scoff, cry, or throw some petty tantrum over the mention of ‘Donald Trump’, assume this: I am of the same political party as you, I voted for who you voted for, and we get along in political matter 99% of the time. Regardless, I will do my best to remain unbiased to both sides as all news reporters should, but sadly don’t.

Moving forward, despite which presidential term we want to refer to, there has been an obvious trend in media today; multi-media news sources using bias, from producers and owners (of whom write the scripts the hosts and broadcasters read from on a teleprompter), in order to push political agenda and opinions by how in which they convey their messages. President Trump refers to this as “fake news”. Yes, a term we’ve all heard way too much, but also one in which has kept society skeptical about what they read and see online. This is  correct, as we all should do more research before we believe a random Facebook post saying that the president is the Antichrist or Messiah. But, for some reason, society treats a broadcast news as gospel, when in all actuality they are essentially the same thing. One is you’re reading the story on a site written by a reporter who is edited and censored by editors and producers. The other is the exact same scenario except a broadcaster is reading it to you with maybe a picture or edited video displaying merely a fragment of context (the context they decide to show you). For an American society who greatly fears more power to the wealthy over the middle/working class, why do you treat big-business-news as holy? Not forming self-opinions and simply taking a CNN or FOX producer’s opinion leads to the growth of that corporation (which is fine, they are all hardworking people ho do their jobs greatly), but also more power and wealth to the individual owners and sponsors of said media.download (1)

So, what am I saying? What is my argument? Are all news stations essentially “fake news” and should be disregarded to the same truth level as TheOnion who makes satirical, joking fake news on purpose? President Trump calls this “fake news”, but with all respect, that term is incorrect and faulty because media today goes much deeper than determining what could be considered ‘dishonest’ or ‘honest’. Quite the bold statement for a college student right? Well, maybe not; it’s quite plain and simple actually. So, the whole point of my argument is to make you more consciously aware that ALL news and media is propaganda in some way or the other. My goal is to make you more consciously aware of news and media and to be able to formulate an opinion for yourself and not take a news reporter’s exact wording as descriptive scripture. In a way, I wish to contribute to public involvement in the American community, and further push the challenge to experts with big wallets only seeking to make them bigger.


Let’s stick with the State of the Union Address because its still such a ‘hot topic’. In black and white print, the president gave a speech to the United States concerning many current, political topics. Obviously, this is a big deal for our country, regardless of who’s president. Its an event that a majority of the population will tune into as everything stated is of continental, or even global, importance. News sites and media outlets are hustling and bustling, staying up until the early hours of the morning, piecing together posts and stories over what just took place and what was said there.

Now, if you didn’t get a chance to see the televised address, here is a link to the full, unedited speech on YouTube through The Washington Post:

I would recommend not looking up ‘highlights’, ‘summaries’ or ‘key point’ videos of the address until you’ve seen it for yourself and have gathered your OWN opinion on the remarks and points made by President Trump and then return to this story. If you’ve already seen it or most of it, great! Then, let’s continue to take a look at how different news outlets portray the exact same speech based on political opinion.

Screenshot 2019-02-07 at 10.14.35 AM

Let’s start with Fox. despite your opinions of this media source (because I know certain public figures such as Trevor Noah and John Oliver never hesitate to make a cutting remark or two towards FOX) one has to give them the fact that they are still a very established and great broadcast news source. I, for one, happen to like this one, but they are equally guilty of being politically bias in many aspects. To the right is a screenshot of FOX’s post over the address from the president. Now, look at the title and look at the caption mid-way into the video. Pay close attention to the wording they use; what side, can you infer, that they are supporting? I don’t know about you, but I definitely sense a touch of right-winged opinion.

Now, there is nothing wrong with having right or left opinions, but diction in news stories that will be wildly viewed do have an affect on public opinion. Fox used phrases such as “changed history”, “appeal for unity”, “called for an end to…revenge and retribution”. With this, Fox news paints a very positive picture of President Trump. It practically describes him as an agent for change and active in ending political division between the government. But also, they sort of paint Pelosi as the advocate. Pelosi more or less stands for the opposition of opinions against Trump, the Democratic left. They don’t exactly or specifically address her as a “villain” or “enemy” and bash her reputation. It was actually quite respectful, but it utilized this to further push the republican right supporting beliefs of the President’s agenda. This is a Republican side pushing media source pushing opinions (no matter how suttle) of the right’s ideas and goals.

Now, let’s take a look at what CNN had to say about the State of the Union Address. CNN is a very established and remarkable media source. I enjoy a lot of their material, but I shy away from them, in the same way as FOX, when it comes to politics. The screenshot of the story to the right is taken from CNN’s website of the story that was posted immediately after the address. Most know that CNN is a more democratic-left news source. Again, nothing wrong with that, but it does lead to propagandic news through political bias as well. It’s well known that the President and CNN are not on the best terms with one another, but lets see a quick glimpse at what they had to say. Screenshot 2019-02-07 at 10.17.06 AM

Now, likewise with the previous, look at every factor you can about the picture taken from CNN’s website. Pay close attention to the wording. The title is not as directional to one side or the other at first, but when inferred it is clear. The address was roughly an hour and twenty minutes, and the best one of the biggest news sources in the world can do is get “five key takeaways” out of that? I’m sorry CNN but did you fall asleep during the speech? There was quite a lot said; there’s certainly more than 5 points that Americans needed to know about this speech. So, personally, although I do enjoy CNN on occasion, I would call that a failure in journalistic media. But moving forward, the story was well written and respectful, but very quick and short. Then, looking at the video, I captured a near immediate clip of the caption, “…but president Trump didn’t shy away from making pointed remarks aimed at Democrats.”

Whether that last line said ‘Democrats’, ‘Republicans’, or even the ‘Green-Tea Party’, I have several problems with that. This is a propagandic story just like FOX. Just like how FOX did not need to call out Pelosi in the story, CNN didn’t need to create the idea that Trump was targeting the left. If you watched the address in full, it was actually well wrote and well-spoken (which, i know, is newer for the President). President Trump is a Republican; with that he is going to have opinions that a Democrat would disagree with. In the same way, President Obama, had statements and ideas that Republicans disagreed with. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with disagreeing. It’s been quite common ever sense Rhetoric and dialectic was introduced in the dialogues of Plato, in ancient Greece. So, to paint the picture that a president of a opposite political stance is targeting, or making “pointed remarks”, is simply just trying to stir the pot between parties. So, yes, stop it.

Going from this, these are just two of hundreds of news outlets doing the exact same thing. We looked at the diction in these two posts. So, why did they use those words, and not a different set. Then, also, what was the motivation behind putting those words in that exact order?  Why did neither of them say, “President Trump made a State of the Union Address on Tuesday”. Both of them were not conduction a piece to report what happened, they were conducting an opinion article that agreed with the franchise of that media source. This is called Syntagmatic and Paradigmatic.

Now what the heck are these massive Latin words I just threw at you after insulting major news sources. Well, they are the grounds for stating opinions through words conveyed in media. Syntagmatic is how each of those choice words relate to each other in order to convey the medium of that phrase. Paradigmatic is the other possible words they could have used to move towards another medium. As stated in an older thesis, Mashall McLuhan created the phrase “The Medium is the message”. downloadSo, what diction CNN, FOX, ABC, etc. uses to convey is the exact message and ideals they want their readers to observe, as verbatim as possible. Whether by accident or entirely on purpose, this technique is used through social and political bias of the reporter, the producer, editor, or owner. To the right is the studied chart for the theory of Syntagmatic and Paradigmatic in media today.

Now, here’s another example. Through a Republican source you might see a title like, “President Trump calls for border-wall funds to help end illegal immigration.” Look at the wording in that. Now on a Democratic Source you might see “Trump pushing border-wall expenses to stop refugees.” What do you notice first? One referred to him as “President Trump”, the other as simply “Trump”. One shows respect to him and his beliefs while the other avoids it. Next, it says he is “pushing for border-wall expenses”, and the first says “calls for border-wall funds”. See the mood and tone we are getting from each title? Then we see “help” and “illegal” while the other says “stop refugees”. There is an obvious pattern; both cover the same event, but they have chosen different words to describe this that give off different tones and opinions, but the real opinionating takes place in the video at the top of the posts.

Have you noticed hardly any just give the video in full with their post? They are all segments taken out of its original context to be placed along graphics written by a reporter or producer by that company to convey the exact message they politically are bias too. When you click on a neat post about a recent political even that has a long story or a 2-5 minute video, which will you do first? Most would immediately say video; it’s quick and easy, and that’s exactly how society wants their information today. So, instead of a fair, respectful story, you get the opinions delegated in the brief highlighted video of what that editor wanted you to see.

Feel a little lack of control when it comes to the opinions you have politically? I know I did. It’s black and white and very few realize this, and hardly anyone knows the science behind it. I myself am studying this as a Communications and Film Studies double major and have come to realize these things through lectures, seminars, documentaries such as US.Now, readings from McLuhan, Walter Oong, Plato, and many more. Once again, I did not write this to bash or ‘diss’ any news sources. They are filled with very hard working people respectfully doing their jobs the best they can, but I do want to convey a media injustice that has mistakenly been called “fake news”, when it is really propaganda.  So, I implore you to dig deeper into the facts when something is involving things as important as  your country, family, daily life, and career. Research and take more than one site’s opinion when dealing with these things. Formulate your opinions for yourself and never hesitate to question the experts. Public involvement from it’s citizens is at the very core of this nation. Don’t let biased media control your opinions, but also never fear or be offended by someone who has disagreed based on their own research as well.

Dialectic was a powerful tool used by Aristotle, a foundation maker for wisdom and philosophy. Never fear to (friendly) debate for truth and wisdom seeking as an American with another American. Be sure to check out the readings and podcasts by the named authors and also the documentary I stated previously. Also, stay tuned for more of these blog posts and I will be attaching them in podcast from soon enough!

~Devyn Lyon

Editor & Founder of Lyon Films & Media

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