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I've noticed that whenever the media wants to demonize a public figure, they follow a specific pattern:

1.      Quote the public figure out of context to make him look more ridiculous than usual.

2.      When the public figure tries to put the quote back in context, the headlines the next day will say, "[Public Figure] Doubles Down"

3.      When the public figure tries to clarify a hasty remark, or one taken out of context, the headline is "[Public Figure] Backpedals on Earlier Remarks."

Backpedaling and doubling down are words the media use to signal their opinion that the figure in question is an unscrupulous weasel. It also helps distract from the fact that the media often invents news by removing context. Doubling down sounds a lot better than the more accurate alternative: "Public Figure Correctly Points Out that We Manufactured News by Removing Context."

If you Google "doubles down" "Romney" you will discover that Romney allegedly doubled down on. . .

1.      Criticism of embassy attacks
2.      The 47% controversy
3.      False Jeep claims
4.      Defunding National Public Radio
5.      Obama's "Apology Tour"
6.      Vouchercare
7.      Russia as geopolitical adversary
8.      "extreme" immigration positions

Do a similar search for "doubles down" and "Obama" and you find that the President doubled down on. . .

1.      History
2.      Tax hikes
3.      About not apologizing
4.      On "oddly incoherent critique of Romney"
5.      Bain Capital attacks
6.      Romney's op-ed about automaker support
7.      Biden's claim that middle class ‘buried'
8.      Big government

Meanwhile, Romney "backpedalled" on. . .

1.      47% comment
2.      Deportations
3.      FEMA
4.      Abortion

And President Obama "backpedalled" on. . .

1.      Economy being fine
2.      "above my pay grade" comment
3.      Libya attacks
4.      Keystone pipeline
5.      Private sector remarks
6.      Sequestration
7.      Ahmadinijad "elected" remark
8.      Gay marriage

You will not be surprised to learn that liberal media sites more often accused Romney of back pedaling and doubling down while conservative media sites more often say the same about President Obama.

My advice is that whenever you see backpedalling or doubling down in an alleged news story, stop reading immediately. The writer and the editor for that piece are trying to manipulate you into a belief that would not necessarily be supported by the facts within their proper context.

 
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+22 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 16, 2012
"Cartoonist / writer Scott Adams encourages his followers to 'stop reading'"
 
 
Nov 15, 2012
[Trolling is one of those words like racism and sexism; it sucks into its gravitational field a lot of things that are legitimate topics of science or conversation but just don't feel that way because of the general field of association. So no, I don't feel tempted to troll, but I do like expressing interesting and controversial points of view, because it can lead to better thinking and improved ideas through a process of evolution. To many observers on the Internet, that will be conflated with trolling. -- Scott]

Good point. I think in America in general and the internet in specific, we are losing our abilities to make subtle distinctions. Thus honest questions that need to be asked can seem like trolling, particularly if the context is either missing or lost on the audience and people forget that sometimes we need to look at things from an opposite angle to either confirm our beliefs or to find their flaws and grow.
 
 
Nov 15, 2012
@nankfu

The character assassination of Romney is concerning. The fact they can spin anyone into a villain is severely disconcerting. And the inverse, making Obama a rockstar, is also troubling.

But...what I think is more troubling is that they didn't attack him on the issues.

And what I find EVEN MORE troubling, is that your concern is still on character. You are lamenting character assassination while issues weren't even center stage.

Yes its bad they lie about character, but whats worse is they distract from issues. And then that you are stuck on it.

An issues focused campaign pits Obama the rockstar against Obama the evil corporatist: their policies are close. The evil corporatist themed barbie has some wind to his back since rockstar barbie has a terrible record, but the race was carefully focused on character. not issues, not record.

and if all else fails, send the electorate into a haze. thx joe biden for your grinnin antics that added nothing of value but occupied the news cycle.

this is what politics has become.
 
 
Nov 15, 2012
A news network that did nothing but try to educate, would be boring. What they need to do, but haven't figured out yet, is how to bundle education with entertainment. So they stick with what's safe for the business.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 15, 2012
Agree with the analysis. However, what about the ratio of number of liberal versus conservative media outlets? I would say the popular belief is that Fox News is the only conservative media outlet according to the liberals themselves as that is the one they single out for attack. On the flip side, MSNBC is ultra-radical liberal (which I've seen firsthand) and CNN counted also as being mostly on the liberal side. Almost all talks shows can be rightfully accused of being liberal.

My big disappointment with the election is that liberal media (which significantly outnumbers the conservative) and the Democratic slander machine was working in full gear. No substantive discussions on the economy or the state of the USA. However lots of attacks on the conservatives and anyone who disagrees with the leftists/socialist agenda as racists or rednecks or just plain stupid. Another play from the playbook you didn't mention is to take one outlier politician who says something stupid and paint that person as the spokeman for the other side.

So we took Mitt Romney, a hardworking American, successful businessman and Governor of a liberal state with a track record of working with the opposition, and turned him into the face of evil. If that is the future then indeed we are lost.

[Don't forget The Drudge Report, Breitbart, and other conservative sites on the Internet. -- Scott]
 
 
Nov 15, 2012
The media is paid to troll. They make their money by getting eyeballs, not by educating. And the American public votes for partisan hackery with their eyeballs.

CNN attempts to be accurate and fair. Fox and MSNBC go for straigth partisan spin. And Fox and MSNBC kill CNN in the ratings. The audience is not there for the truth. The audience is there for telling people what they want to hear.

Just as the American public votes in the politicians and get what they deserve, so do they determine what the media covers with their attention.
 
 
Nov 15, 2012
if you never _disagree_ with anything a news network tells you, I meant to say.
 
 
Nov 15, 2012
Ideally, the viewers of a news network (or any media) should, despite their bias towards that network, be able to spot whether they're being served junk on a regular basis.
I mean, if you never agree anything a news network tells you, that should be a bad sign.

If the majority don't judge them on the intellectual value of their content, the natural incentive structure tips into their favor to say and cover what ever they please to pump their ratings and take the cheapest, simplest approach to maximizing revenue. So from a purely business angle, you can't really blame them.

Maybe change here will too come due to demographic shifts, because that means that they'll _have_ to change to survive, not because its the right thing to do.
 
 
Nov 15, 2012
(scott said:
"slowly transforms into an awesome form of entertainment")

I have a natural follow up to that: do you ever feel like trolling the media just for the fun of it?

[Trolling is one of those words like racism and sexism; it sucks into its gravitational field a lot of things that are legitimate topics of science or conversation but just don't feel that way because of the general field of association. So no, I don't feel tempted to troll, but I do like expressing interesting and controversial points of view, because it can lead to better thinking and improved ideas through a process of evolution. To many observers on the Internet, that will be conflated with trolling. -- Scott]
 
 
Nov 15, 2012
Why would people be interested in facts within their proper context when we can have carefully filtered affirmations of our own fantasies delivered on a daily basis? This is heaven!
 
 
Nov 15, 2012
A better piece of advice would be 'Stop reading newspapers immediately'. Removing that torrent of bile and hatred from my life felt better than having a particularly ugly boil on my arse lanced. When I used to read opinion pieces, there was only a finite number of times I could read the word 'however' before I threw up.

As for television if it does not involve wrestling and mud I am probably not watching it.*

*For context I am talking about wildlife documentaries.**

**And naked lesbian mud wrestling.
 
 
Nov 15, 2012
I usually switch off, or stop reading, anytime the author uses a cliche in their opening paragraph or statement. George Orwell wrote an excellent essay, years ago, deriding the use of metaphors and cliches. His point was, why use a metaphor, analogy, or cliche, when you can simply state the facts.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 15, 2012
I find this whole topic depressing. Journalistic standards are clearly governed by ratings rather than accuracy, insightfulness, depth of research etc. We get what we pay for (e.g. what we choose to pay attention to).

I did perk up when I saw AtlantaDudes suggestion: I think a random news-generator has promise. News stories have become so formulaic, I first thought "I bet someone could easily come up with an automated program that generates stories that actually pass for real news." Then I thought: "Maybe someone already has! Maybe that explains the mindless drivel that is our network news." Maybe it will all be revealed as the graduate-thesis-project-run-amouk that it actually is and we can then go back to thoughtful, human-generated content.

It could happen.
 
 
Nov 14, 2012
Interesting topic, and one you've brought up before.

It may be true that the liberal media spins one way and the conservative media spins the other. The problem from my conservative point of view is that almost all of the mainstream media is liberal. The conservative sites are few and far between, so the news slant overall tends to strongly favor the Democrat party and candidates.

This makes the mainstream media underplay the difficulties of those on the left while exacerbating the difficulties of those on the right. Take the press' treatment of Joe Biden's almost daily gaffes versus what happened to Dan Quayle. Vice President Biden is treated as the kindly old uncle at your Thanksgiving dinner who just says such cute but ditzy things and is such a joy. Vice President Quayle, on the other hand, was treated as a blithering idiot who was unable to count to ten without getting three of the numbers out of order.

One thing you didn't mention directly: misleading headlines that don't match the text of the story, or are wildly off the mark on what the true point of the story is. I read some of the Huffington Post headlines and think, "Wow! That's horrible!" And then I read the story behind the headline and find out that the headline's statement is not even close to what the story says, and in fact is sometimes 180 degrees out from it.

There's also the way the press spikes some stories or downplays them. Take the New York Times treatment of Abu Ghraib (where no one died) - 32 front page, above-the-fold, stories. Compare that with the New York Times story on Benghazi, where four Americans were assassinated: One story of the second day of hearings ended up on page three of the International section. This led, amazingly, to Margaret Sullivan, the Times Public Editor, to say that her newspaper should have given the situation more coverage and put the story on page one.

The Times response? That there were six stories more worthy of front page placement. What were those stories? One was on affirmative action at universities (no one died in the story). Another was on Lance Armstrong's drug allegations (again, everyone lived). Two were on the presidential elections (both candidates were still fogging the mirror, and neither story mentioned Benghazi). One was on some taped phone calls at JP Morgan Chase (all participants in the calls remained alive), and the final one was on a Tennessee woman who died of meningitis (OK, I'll concede that someone did sadly die in that one). You decide which, if any, of those stories could have been bumped for Benghazi.

I'm sorry to hear that Scott has been at the brunt of some unfair treatment in the press. I'd also like to know how he thinks that treatment has reduced his income by 50%. If true, that's truly scary that the press has that much power over a cartoonist. That's not good at all, and if true, it needs to be addressed in a bigger forum than this one.

On a lighter note, I often used the term "weasels" (as did Scott in this post) to describe certain individuals and companies. I even got in trouble with my boss one time for using the term, even though it was only used in-house. Then, I came upon an old Dilbert cartoon that you may remember if you've been following Dilbert for as long as I have (It was from August 31, 1998 - I researched it)

Here's the setup: Dilbert is in an electronic store, looking at some piece of electronic gear. The shopkeeper is a weasel. Dilbert says, "It's nice, but the weasel down the street is selling it for less." The weasel holds out his arms in a negative gesture, and says, "You should never settle for the lesser of two weasels." (Time delay for groan at the pun). In the final pane, Dilbert is talking to Dogbert, and says, "Now that you mention it, it DID seem too convenient."

I stuck the strip into my boss' inbox. I am no longer working there.

Some people just have no sense of humor.
 
 
Nov 14, 2012
whtllnew > You think the media will get that part right? Keep in mind they're trying to demonize the guy.

Understood, but you KNOW the original story was skewed, or there wouldn't be charges of backpedaling. So by at least reading the second story you MIGHT get correct info.

I'd suggest reading the quotes in the second story and ignoring the rest. The story wouldn't have "backpedaling" in the headline if they weren't providing new info (probably quotes) that contradicted/corrected the original out-of-context quotes.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 14, 2012
Hhmmm, what does one call how Karl Rove behaved on election night?
 
 
+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 14, 2012
Intemperate comments by "your" guy are always explained away by "context" or what he really was saying. (and anyone who "misinterprets" your guy is a partisan hack).

While the "other" guys slips are a moment of "truth" of what that other guy "really" thinks, and can not be explained in *any* context. (except in the worst interpretation of what he really means)
 
 
Nov 14, 2012
@DilgalLives

[If you've already been exposed to the fabricated story, doesn't it make more sense to read the backpedalling one to find out what the poor smuck REALLY meant the first time before it was taken out of context?]

You think the media will get that part right? Keep in mind they're trying to demonize the guy.
 
 
Nov 14, 2012
> When the public figure tries to clarify a hasty remark, or one taken out of context, the headline is "[Public Figure] Backpedals on Earlier Remarks."
>My advice is that whenever you see backpedalling or doubling down in an alleged news story, stop reading immediately.

If you've already been exposed to the fabricated story, doesn't it make more sense to read the backpedalling one to find out what the poor smuck REALLY meant the first time before it was taken out of context?
 
 
Nov 14, 2012
The Dilbert.com website used to have a "mission statement generator" that would create randomly mixed strings of consult-ese words. I thought it was awesome and right on point. I believe you could create the same kind of thing to generate political campaign coverage articles. Backpedals and doubles-down could be a couple of the key verbs along with expand, shrink, streamline and eliminate, and some of the nouns could be: abortion, religion, the flag, Russia, China, the Middle East, defense, budget, taxes, etc.
 
 
 
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