Sunday, September 25, 2005

Media Definitions

[I came across Unreliable Sources: A guide to Detecting Bias in the News Media when researching my paper on the Sandinistas in Christian Periodicals.
In their book, the authors have a list of frequently used terms in the media, and their interpretation of what these terms actual mean.
I thought this was quite good, and I thought it would fit with an event we were doing at Media Mouse.
So I took the trouble of typing them all out onto a word processing document.
The memory is a bit foggy on the details, but we at  Media Mouse were doing some sort of event about corporate control of media.  I showed these definitions to the other Media Mouse members, and they also liked them.  In the end, we got the idea to put these various definitions on cards, and posted them around the room for our event.]

Google: drive, docs, pub

Lee, Martin A and Norman Solomon.  Unreliable Sources: A guide to Detecting Bias in the News Media.  Carol Publishing Group.  New York.  1990.

Acting Presidential  A grandly nebulous description by TV news correspondents, giving a favorable review to some bit of presidential acting.

Bailout  Huge amounts of taxpayers’ money going to wealthy financiers with souring investments in industries like auto production or Savings and Loans.

Believed to be, Considered to be  Using the passive voice, the journalist can generalize at will, as though anyone knowledgeable shares the same belief.

Big Government  A pejorative for regulatory agencies limiting corporate activities, or for social service programs aiding poor and middle-class people—but not for the government’s enormous military expenditures.

Brought to you by A roundabout way of plugging commercial sponsors

Clean up  A scenario for setting right oil spills, nuclear pollution, chemical releases and the like.  The phrase sounds comforting—it implies a magical vacuum cleaner at work—except that most ecological disasters can’t be undone.

Dangerous Drugs  Illegal substances, as distinct form other damaging consumables—alcohol, cigarettes and over prescribed pharmaceuticals—also widely used.

Defense Spending  Military spending

Efficiency  Frequently shorthand for corporate management’s preferences, maybe involving layoffs, firings, wage cuts and/or union busting.

Experts  A common noun handy for promoting a favored point of view

Extremists, Fanatics, Fringe groups  Political individuals or groupings that meet with U.S. government and media disapproval.

Instability  Code for situations overseas where the U.S. State Department is unhappy with current events.

Intelligence Community  A way of making cloak-and-dagger specialists at the CIA and other spy agencies sound like friendly neighbors.

Military leader  A foreign military dictator whom the White House doesn’t mind a whole lot

Military strongman  A foreign dictator out of favor with the White House

Moderate  In domestic politics, this favorable adjective is conferred for not rocking the status-quo boat.  As a moniker for foreign regimes, “moderate” denotes little inclination to disrupt U.S. government plans.  Thus, Saudi Arabias’s monarchy is “moderate”—which would surprise the hundreds of torture victims inside Saudi prisons.

National Security  Confined to subjects like weapons, soldiers and espionage, the connotations bypass vital aspects of true national security—such as environmental protection, public health, social cohesion and a strong economy.

Observers  The observers taken most seriously by news media.

Radical Although students protesting in, say, China are “pro-democracy,” in South Korea pro-democracy students in the streets are “radical” demonstrators—with reasons behind their anti-U.S. protests rarely explained.

Reform  In journalese, “reform” can mean just about anything.  “Tax reform” during the 1980s was a euphemism for legislation that gave the wealthy major tax cuts.

Senior administration officials, Sources close to the investigation  The people putting out the line are only willing to do so anonymously—refusing to publicly answer for whether they’ve linked truth or lies.

Special Interests  This phrase used to be applied to wheeler-dealers relying on big bucks instead of grassroots supporters to sway the democratic process.  But in recent years, mass media have turned the “special interests” label upside down and plastered it elsewhere—on large numbers of people with less money and less power—groups of black and Hispanic Americans, labor union members, feminist women, seniors, lesbian and gay rights backers, and other organized constituencies.

Stability  A code word for situations overseas where the U.S. State Department wouldn’t mind if conditions stayed the same.

Terrorism  A label very selectively applied, in keeping with U.S. government definitions.  So—in the mediaspeak lexicon—bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings are “terrorism” if done by Arabs, but not if done by Israelis.

U.S. analysts, Western diplomats, etc  These phrases are broad and pliable enough to serve as springboards for the opinions of American officials and their allies, while obscuring the sources and motives behind the words.

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