Accuracy in Media

Teen Vogue has decided to produce a dictionary – of terms, historical events and people to know. The defining moment of which is that they manage to misquote – even misunderstand – a dictionary definition they themselves refer to. The definitions they offer are to pieces at Teen Vogue as well, so it’s not like any of the other definitions are accurate.

Our favorite is this about capitalism: “Capitalism is defined as an economic system in which a country’s trade, industry, and profits are controlled by private companies, instead of by the people whose time and labor powers those companies.” No, that’s not the definition and that link inside that quote is Teen Vogue’s own, to Merriam Webster, which defines capitalism as: “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market”. There’s a distinct difference between those two definitions and Teen Vogue manages not to understand, or get correct, the one they themselves quote. Capitalism is that capital is controlled by capitalists, not trade, industry or profits. Which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the dictionary.

We’re also quite taken by the entry on Democratic Socialism: “ Under capitalism, the economy’s commanding heights are owned by a small elite. Under socialism, ownership of major means of production would be dispersed and democratized, or so advocates contend. “ Which is about the point where we’d hope someone trying to educate would point out that pensions – whether individual 401 (k)s or larger pension funds are a vastly larger portion of the national wealth than anything the capitalist titans own. So we’ve already achieved that.

The piece on hymens and virginity puzzles as while informative it never does discuss why virginity has ever even been a thing of any societal importance. Until the absence of both contraception and proof of paternity across history is indicated it’ll also never be understood. Again, education would include at least a nod to how the modern world has made historical concerns out of date.

The piece on Thanksgiving has much to recommend it – from a fairly partisan view – but it misses the really big issue. Which is that that first harvest when there was enough food to feast upon was the first one where the Pilgrims had abandoned a socialist form of farming and adopted a capitalist and market-based one. But then pointing that out might conflict with many of the other things, as above, that Teen Vogue is trying to teach its readers.

The reason we’re so interested here is that Teen Vogue markets itself as “educating the influencers of tomorrow.” We agree that such education is important and desirable. We just think that such education should be unbiased. Or, perhaps, at least reflective of reality. Or even a useful education about why the world is the way that it is.

History is important, it explains how we got to where we are and why we got here. We at least agree with Teen Vogue on that. But what Teen Vogue is telling its largely teenage and female readers isn’t, unfortunately, the history that got us to where we are. Which isn’t, we insist, the way to educate those future influencers. To tell people how we got here is a great idea – but it does need to be the story of how we got here.




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