Accuracy in Media

The mainstream media tends to hype news clips into oblivion. The media’s obsession with the ‘ok’ hand gesture was one such example of the media creating a controversy out of nothing.

At the annual Army-Navy football game, which President Donald Trump attended, multiple cadets were filmed using the “OK” gesture. The media jumped on this news and claimed that these cadets were using the gesture to demonstrate their support for white supremacy.

The New York Times featured an article dissecting what the gesture meant and ran with the headline, “When the OK sign is no longer OK.” National Public Radio published a similarly-worded article last September, headlined, “The ‘OK’ hand gesture is now listed as a symbol of hate.” The Associated Press, after the football game controversy, asked, “Hate sign or silly game? Military academies probe hand signs.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center admitted that the controversy was created by online trolls, but at the same time, it said the hand gesture was linked to white supremacy.

The Anti-Defamation League, contrary to the media narrative, defined the “OK” hand gesture and warned about creating a controversy out of thin air. ADL is an organization dedicated to stopping the defamation of the Jewish people and combating anti-Semitism, and as a part of its mission, it compiles data about anti-Semitic activity. It was far more qualified to discuss the controversy surrounding the hand gesture than the media, due to its mission and familiarity in combating anti-Semitic rhetoric, some of which comes from white supremacists.

ADL warned readers to take “particular caution… when evaluating this symbol.” It added that usually, the hand gesture “most commonly signals understanding, consent, approval or well-being.” ADL also noted that the gesture “is also important in the Hindu and Buddhist worlds” to symbolize “inner perfection.” To clarify, ADL said, “Use of the okay symbol in most contexts is entirely innocuous and harmless.”

Unfortunately, the mainstream media failed to read the following paragraph from ADL, which read:

“In 2017, the “okay” hand gesture acquired a new and different significance thanks to a hoax by members of the website 4chan to falsely promote the gesture as a hate symbol, claiming that the gesture represented the letters “wp,” for “white power.” The “okay” gesture hoax was merely the latest in a series of similar 4chan hoaxes using various innocuous symbols; in each case, the hoaxers hoped that the media and liberals would overreact by condemning a common image as white supremacist.”

ADL’s conclusion should have made its way into media newsrooms and subsequent reporting because it said that “particular care must be taken not to jump to conclusions about the intent behind someone who has used the gesture.”

The mainstream media apparently missed the memo from the ADL and immediately clung to the narrative that the military cadets were white supremacists when further investigation found that the cadets were engaging in banter and foolish behavior unrelated to white supremacy.

After the military academies’ investigations ended and the media’s narrative debunked, the media did not admit its guilt in perpetuating a false narrative and carried on as if nothing happened.

The media almost slandered the entire body of military cadets at the Army-Navy game, if not the entire United States military cadet population, by claiming that white supremacist beliefs were alive and well due to an ‘OK’ hand gesture filmed on national television. The media ignored its role in the false narrative and tried to emerge unscathed from the controversy, though it was yet another example of dishonest media reporting in favor of liberal bias, ideology and worldview.




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