Subtlety is the most destructive weapon of biased journalists. It is the intellectual equivalent of a shot to the casual reader’s head from a sniper’s gun hundreds of yards away. The unsuspecting victim never knows what hit him.
The sniper’s ammunition comes in many calibers — selective reporting, misleading headlines, loaded adjectives and deceptive cutlines. Some kill instantly; others leave their targets in a permanently vegetative state. But the end result is always the same: liberal indoctrination.
Journalists are beginning to deploy subtlety as a weapon in their coverage of the protests over health care reform. They have learned that a tank barreling down the middle of the street, like the one CNN’s Susan Roesgen drove during the Chicago Tea Party in April, is too obvious to work, so they have assumed high and hidden perches instead.
The latest sniper attack occurred last night in Tampa. As has happened across the country the past few weeks, opponents of President Obama’s pro-government health care policies rallied at a town hall of their congresswoman, Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor.
The constituents at events like Castor’s are the same ones who organized anti-spending and anti-tax tea parties in the spring. The mainstream media at first ignored those grassroots displays of taxpayer outrage and turned to ridicule when the pesky protesters refused to be ignored.
Both weapons exploded in their faces, so the St. Petersburg Times embraced the sniper rifle of subtlety in its coverage of Castor’s town hall.
Jon Henke of The Next Right heard the first shot — the newspaper changed its story, literally — and exposed the sniper. The Times (whose parent company once employed me at Congressional Quarterly) initially, and correctly, thought it fair to note that the Service Employees International Union organized a counter protest at Castor’s event.
The paper also included this explosive quote from an SEIU official hinting at plans to instigate trouble at the event: “We’re prepared [for disruption]. We have strategies to deal with it if it should come up.”
That language provided important context about a group whose leader once described his thug-like organizing philosophy like this: “[W]e prefer to use the power of persuasion, but if that doesn’t work we use the persuasion of power.”
The rewrite of the story a short time later dropped the quote and changed the tone of the story to what Henke rightly called “something far more SEIU/Democrat friendly.” The second version downplayed SEIU’s role even though it was billed as an organizer, and it spun the story from the critical perspective of pro-Obama protesters.
Ironically, the only photographic evidence of a physical encounter that the paper published showed a woman, later identified by Henke as local Democratic operative Karen Miracle, shoving an Obama critic in the face.
That brings us to the second sniper shot fired by the Times: its cutlines for the story. The 17-photo slideshow for the event cast opponents of government-run health care as a rowdy mob but mostly reserved judgment about the other side.
The second photo is a classic case of subtle bias. It reads, “Castor supporters cheer while opponents scowl.” The paper also described Miracle and her husband, also a player in local Democratic politics, merely as people “attending to learn more about the health care reform.”
When Miracle pushed the man’s face, the Times excused the offense with this sympathetic cutline: “According to Karen Miracle, she was defending her husband, who has a heart condition.” How dare that evil conservative argue with a man who has a heart condition!
Not all of the local coverage of the ongoing town-hall confrontations is as biased as what the Times published. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch actually included in its report the account of a conservative who was attacked while distributing signs that said “Don’t tread on me,” one of the slogans of the tea party movement.
But odds are good that sniper attacks like the ones from the Times will become more commonplace as the healthcare debate intensifies in lawmakers’ districts this month. The national media in particular are not likely to report on the events objectively when they so desperately want Obama’s agenda to be enacted.
So let this be a warning to foes of socialized medicine. Be on the lookout for media snipers. They will amplify every minor mistake you make and downplay the major sins of Obama supporters. Don’t give them any ammunition, and do expose them when they take aim at “the mob.”