I once lived under a dictatorship, so we rarely believed what the government run media told us. Because of the censorship of the media, rumors tended to spread wildly and so to find out what was going on, we relied on word of mouth from other missionaries,  and every night we listened to the BBC’s world news to find out what was really going on.

Freedom of the press is something that one takes for granted in the US, but one worries when ideology twists news stories so that folks no longer believe such things.

Two opinion columns in today’s news show that problem.

The first is from the Politico, which was discussing a Massachusetts Senatorial race:

This suggests that Brown’s lead narrowed by a statistically
insignificant one point, during a month in which the media-narrative was
a moderate Republican’s nightmare.

Democrats turned public concern about the Obama administration’s mandate that employers (including those with religious affiliations) must provide health insurance covering abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization into a national discussion of Republican attitudes regarding contraception.

Oh, so the press decided to ignore the public concern and concentrate on the Democratic talking points. Why did the press do this? It’s the fault of the Republicans:

  GOP missteps — from   failing to showcase women at prominent congressional hearings about religious liberty versus the mandate, recast by the left as being about  women’s health, to conservative icon Rush Limbaugh,  misled by an inaccurate report, insulting a Georgetown law  student/contraceptive activist (for which he apologized, but by then the narrative was set) — allowed Democrats to twist opposition to the unprecedented government mandate into a “GOP War on Women.”

emphasis mine.

Except…wait a second: there were 2 women among the 8 religious leaders who testified to Congress.

From GetReligion: a blog that covers religious stories being covered in the media:

Take a look at this picture of Dr. Allison Dabbs Garrett, the senior vice-president for academic affairs at Oklahoma Christian University. According to the mainstream media, she doesn’t exist. Neither does Dr. Laura Champion, medical director of Calvin College Health Services. See, they testified at a hearing on religious liberty. But since the talking points used by the media are, quite literally, “Where were the women at the religious liberty hearing?”, they can’t acknowledge that they exist.

So why did the media really let itself be manipulated into this narrative?

Uh, because they could? Or was it media bias?

Or was it because they are just to lazy to do their job, which is to report “just the facts, ma’am”?

From Shelby Steele, via the WSJ:

The civil rights community and the liberal media live by the poetic truth that America is still a reflexively racist society, and that this remains the great barrier to black equality.

But this “truth” has a lot of lie in it. America has greatly evolved since the 1960s. There are no longer any respectable advocates of racial segregation. And blacks today are nine times more likely to be killed by other blacks than by whites…

The tragedy surrounding Trayvon’s death is not in the possibility that it might have something to do with white racism; the tragedy is in the
lustfulness with which so many black leaders, in conjunction with the media, have leapt to exploit his demise for their own power.

Again, emphasis is mine.

As one watches one part of the narrative after another be corrected in this tragic story, one wonders why the press “ran” with the “racist white man” story, instead of checking facts first.

Steele blames the idea of “poetic truth” and notes:

The great trick of poetic truth is to pass itself off as the deep and essential truth so that hard facts that refute it must be dismissed in the name of truth

Alas, one finds a similar problem with global warming reporting: The very real problems of pollution and how the environment needs to be protected can’t be politely discussed because they get mixed up with a global warming religion that seeks to impose a global governance on people.

Ergo, if you try to discuss pros and cons, or nuances, or question anything about the “global warming” agenda, you are “anti Science”.

And like the meme that Republicans are “anti woman”, we now see the meme being stretched into the talking points that “Republicans are anti science”, and even hints by “scientists” that it is because they are stupid.

From Mother Jones:

 Are conservatives more anti-science than liberals? In The Republican Brain, Chris Mooney says they are, and he says this is due to innate temperamental differences between left and right. On Friday I wrote a short post saying I was skeptical about this, and today I’m going to spell out my objections in a little more detail…

The article then goes on to state the details, including this one:

what’s the cognitive trait that makes you anti-science? Not just skeptical of one or two particular results, but skeptical of science in general. You can probably invent a just-so story with two or three steps to get there, but I’d take it with a big grain of salt.

A lot of the discussion points out that the economics of business regulation is part of that rejection of global warming.

And I would add that the “anti evolution” part tends to be rejecting the “philosophy” of scientism, not evolution per se (mainly because Catholics have long accepted evolution as a scientific theory but reject the philosophical ideas behind the idea of blind evolution).

There is a lot of bad reporting out there, and scientific stories are especially to be read with a grain of scientific skepticism.

Yet there are “anti science” stories that the press publishes without bothering to check the facts.

For example: a lot of the “vaccine” hysteria is based on anecdotal evidence that is refuted by science*, yet who dares call the loving parents seeking a reason for their child’s autism “Anti science”? No, here too the “poetic truth” makes the better story.

For example, Ms McNeil’s child developed  neurological deterioration in the months after getting the MMR vaccine, so her story blaming the bad vaccine and the bad medical establishment makes a good news story.

What doesn’t make a good story is the facts: that population studies suggest the vaccine doesn’t correlate with the “epidemic” of autism.

Nor does the press report that MaiPatrick’s children got the vaccine at a local clinic in rural Africa and never died of measles like their four elder sibling.

From the World Health Organization website:

Vaccinating nearly 700 million children against measles, through large-scale immunization campaigns and increased routine immunization coverage, has prevented an estimated 4.3 million measles deaths in less than a decade.

However, global immunization experts warn of a resurgence in measles deaths if vaccination efforts are not sustained.

So I guess it all comes down to “Caveat Emptor”: don’t believe everything you read, because the press, which is supposed to be telling you “just the facts ma’am” is, alas, too often biased toward sensationalism and repeating “poetic facts”.

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*Many cases of autism are genetic, other cases are due to what we assume is viral encephalitis. The statistics suggest no relationship between the various forms of autism and the vaccine per se.

One argument against blaming the vaccine is that the epidemic “started” in the 1990’s, not when the vaccine was introduced in the 1970’s. The mercury kerfuffle caused us to remove the tiny amount of mercury used as a preservative a decade ago, but the problem hasn’t gone away.

I’ve been in the medical fields since the mid 1960’s. We docs saw the same behavior problems in the 1960’s, but we diagnosed these children as “mentally retarded” with behavior problem, or “childhood schizophrenia”, or “pervasive developmental disorder”.  Back then those with severe behavior problems usually were sent to institutions.where they were “out of sight out of mind”.

What changed? We stopped institutionalizing these children in the 1970’s. Now they are at home and their parents are insisting they be properly diagnosed and treated

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She is a Democrat, and blogs at Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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