Fake News

I am going to review the various ways that establishment media deceive the public. These are all forms of the more generic cherry-picking fallacy. The establishment media rarely tell outright lies, but they often lie by selecting facts, images, interpretations, etc. to fit a preconceived narrative. The narrative comes first, and everything else is fit to the narrative.

Selecting facts: Presenting facts or statistics that support one view, while omitting facts that support an opposing view. For example, reporting that blacks are shot by police in disproportionate numbers, while not reporting that blacks commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime.


Selecting images: Showing images of an event that support one view, while omitting images that support an opposing view. One example is showing of women and children in an article on refugees, even though the refugees are majority male. Another example is selecting flattering or unflattering pictures of politicians, depending on whether they support the politician. Another example is using stock photos of black men to illustrate a "feel good" story about fatherhood, while using stock photos of white men to illustrate a "scary" story about violence against women. Images affect us subconsciously, so they are a very powerful form of manipulation.


Selecting headlines: Headlines are concise, they create a frame of interpretation, and many people only read headlines. The media often use misleading headlines to frame a story and bias the reader toward a certain interpretation.

Selective phrasing: A lot can be done with words. For example, an "It's OK to be white" sign found on a college campus will be labeled as "white supremacy" or "neo-Nazism". Left wing rioters may be described as "activists". If an election produces an anti-establishment result, it is called "populism" rather than "democracy". Criticism on social media will be labeled "online abuse", but not when it is directed at Trump of course.

Selective editing: Editing speech or video in a misleading way. A long interview will be edited down to sound bites taken out of context that support the narrative. For example, recently Roger Scruton was accused of racism for supposedly saying that Chinese people were carbon copies of each other, but what he actually said was that the Chinese government was trying to make Chinese people into carbon copies of each other.

Roger Scruton:

Selecting perspectives: Selective reporting on the people affected by an event. The media will interview random people about some event, and then select the perspectives that fit the narrative they are promoting. For example, after a Muslim terrorist attack, they will seek out Muslims to denounce the attack and say that they are concerned about a backlash. After a white nationalist terrorist attack, they will not present white nationalists denouncing the attack and saying that they are concerned about a backlash.


Selecting experts: Reporting on the view of a supposed expert to present an opinion as if it was an established fact, while excluding opposing views. Often this consists of using advocacy research from academics. Sometimes it just includes anyone who claims to be an expert and has the desired views. For example, using Anita Sarkeesian to provide commentary about video games or internet harassment. The media essentially construct experts by treating their opinions as newsworthy.

Example of Anita Sarkeesian, self and media proclaimed expert:

Selecting opinions: The media can propagate a lie by simply reporting it as an opinion of an "expert", while not reporting on opposing views. The media have plausible deniability: "We were just quoting the acknowledged experts on the issue". Because establishment media are viewed as authorities by other establishment media and sites such as Wikipedia, once a lie starts circulating in the establishment media it can become a generally accepted belief.

How the 1 in 5 rape statistic became an accepted belief:

Selective criticism: Criticizing some people or views extensively, while not criticizing others. For example, Trump has been extensively criticized for spreading misinformation, such as incorrect crime statistics. Obama received very little criticism from the media when he spread the false "1 in 5" rape statistic in speeches.

How biased media were against Trump:

Selective importance: Promoting certain events as more important than others, based on whether or not they support a narrative. For example, white hate crimes against blacks (real or hoaxes) are extensively reported, while black hate crimes against whites are under-reported. In recent years, the media has uncritically reported on several alleged crimes that turned out to be hoaxes , such as the Jussie Smollett attack, the Rolling Stone rape story, etc.

Jussie Smollet hoax:

Rolling Stone rape hoax:

Selective memory: This is a special form of selective importance, in which events that don't fit the narrative are quickly forgotten, while events that fit the narrative are remembered over and over (because they are considered important, of course).


Selecting a value frame: Presenting facts that are good or bad for different people, from one side or the other. For example, the media generally report on increasing asset prices, such as stock prices and house prices, as "good", and falling asset prices as "bad", even though increasing prices do not provide any net benefit to society.

Selecting a moral frame: Facts are presented within a certain moral frame, while excluding other frames. For example, illegal immigration is typically framed as a moral issue of care and concern, rather than as an invasion. This moral frame defines a virtue signaling opportunity. If it is a "refugee crisis" then we can signal virtue by saying "let them in". If it is an "invasion" then we can signal virtue by saying "keep them out". Moral framing is a powerful way of manipulating public opinion.

Selecting a social issue frame: Selecting how an event is relevant to larger social issues. For example, a mass killing by a white nationalist will be linked to "the threat of right wing hate", but a mass killing by a Muslim will not be linked to "the threat of Islam". The choice of frame is not just about the focus of the frame, but also about its size. The media assign blame very widely for a killing by a white nationalist, and very narrowly for a killing by a Muslim terrorist.


Constructing social issues: The media construct social issues. For example, the Canadian media has recently made "Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women" into a major social issue. This is highly arbitrary. Yes, native women are more likely to be murdered than non-native women, but native men are three times more likely to be murdered than native women, and natives are much more likely to commit murder than non-natives. The cultural prominence of "MMIW" is based on its selection by the media, not on its actual importance as a social problem. The same is true for "Black Lives Matter". Many social issues have been almost entirely manufactured by the media.

I don't think I have exhausted the ways that the media lie, but hopefully I have covered the most important ones. If you think of others, let me know.