Media Myths

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Contents

9-11

Click on 9-11 to view the full entry.

ACORN

Afghanistan War Reporting

Click on Afghanistan War Reporting to view the full entry.

Al Gore

Click on Al Gore to view the full entry.

Anonymous Sources

Click on Anonymous Sources to view the full entry.

BBC

Click on BBC to view the full entry.

Bias

Click on Bias to view the full entry.

Bill O'Reilly

Captain Jamil Hussein

On November 24, 2006, the Associated Press reported a story attributed to a source named as police Capt. Jamil Hussein. The story later came to be referred to by many as the Burning Six incident. The AP named Hussein as a source for more than 60 other stories which reported Shiite-Sunni violence in Iraq. Efforts to verify the identity of Hussein went on for several months, with his existence being in question part of that time. Eventually it was discovered that Jamil Hussein was a pseudonym and a number of the events cited in the stories he sourced have now been disproved or called into question. This story is an example of the media using questionable sources. Click on Captain Jamil Hussein to view the full entry.

Conflicts of Interest

While not "myths," cases of conflicts of interest are occasionally discovered in major media reports and some will be included here. Click on Conflicts of Interest to view the full entry.


David Letterman

Dr. George Tiller

Drive-by Reporting

Click on Drive-by Reporting to view the full entry.


Economic Reporting

Election 2008

Click on Election 2008 for items relating to the Presidential election between John McCain and Barack Obama


Erroneous Reporting

Click on Erroneous Reporting to view the full entry.

Fabrications/Lying

Click on Fabrications/Lying to view the full entry.

Fauxtography

"Fauxtography" is a term used to describe instances of photojournalism (most coming from sources in the Middle East) in which photos have been either misrepresented by staging or other means, or manipulated with computer software. Bloggers exposing instances of "fauxtography" led to Reuters firing Adnan Hajj, a freelance photographer, and implementing new internal guidelines. Click on Fauxtography to view the full entry.


Florida Recount 2000

George W. Bush

Global Warming

Click on Global Warming to view the full entry.

Harry Reid

Information Theft

Click on Information Theft to view the full entry.

Iran Coverage

Iraq War Coverage

From the beginning of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003, some reports from the region were found to be inaccurate (some even false) or exaggerated, often due to suspect sources later found not to be credible. Examples listed at Media Mythbusters can be found at entries for Captain Jamil Hussein, Massacre at Um al-Abeed, Questionable Military Accounts and BBC.

Israel-Hezbollah War of 2006

Frida Ghitis of World Politics Review looked at Marvin Kalb's study of the news coverage in the Israel-Hezbollah War of 2006 in which he found the media went "from objective observer to fiery advocate" with Hezbollah completely controlling how journalists portrayed its side of the conflict, while Israel became "victimized by its own openness." After reviewing the study, Ghitis wrote that "with Hezbollah's unchallenged control of journalists' access within its territory, it managed to almost completely eliminate from the narrative crucial facts, such as the fact that it deliberately fired its weapons from deep within civilian population centers, counting on Israeli forces to have no choice but defend themselves by targeting rocket launchers where they stood. Hezbollah's strong support from Syria and Iran -- including the provision of deadly weapons -- faded in the coverage, as the conflict increasingly became portrayed as pitting one powerful army against a band of heroic defenders of a civilian population…" Click on Israel-Hezbollah War of 2006 to view the complete entry.

Jenin Massacre

In April 2002, after Palestinian terrorists caused more than a hundred Israeli deaths in the preceding month alone, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield. A significant part of this military effort was aimed at the Jenin refugee camp, a known terrorist headquarter. Within one day of the operation's start, Palestinian spokespeople were saturating the media with reports of a "massacre." The BBC was especially aggressive in reporting on the massacre, with the numbers of alleged dead increasing exponentially. On the first day, 30 were reported to have been massacred. Within a week, the BBC was publishing an analysis comparing Jenin to "the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982, in which at least 800 Palestinians died." The BBC also gave heavy play to hysterical reports from UN observers, who contended that the situation was "horrific beyond belief". Likewise, the BBC gave lead coverage to the International Committee for the Red Cross (which at that time was still refusing to admit Israel to its ranks), representatives of which contended that Israel was hiding the war dead. Amnesty International chimed in on the BBC's pages, with an Amnesty expert opining that, because there were bodies found under fallen buildings, there almost certainly was a massacre. And so the Jenin Massacre myth was born.

And it was a myth. From the start, the Israeli Army reported far lower casualty rates for the Palestinians. Although the Army initially thought that deaths might have been as high as 200 Jenin residents, within days it was scaling down that number to 70 Jenin residents. The final toll, in fact, was in the 50s, with almost all of the dead being armed fighters. The IDF itself lost 33 soldiers, a higher death toll than it would normally have incurred had it not placed its soldiers at extra risk in order to minimize the risk of killing the civilians who found themselves in the midst of terrorist hideouts.

The truth -- that there was no massacre -- emerged very quickly. Within weeks of the battle in Jenin, Honest Reporting provided a comprehensive summary of the myth's propagation in the British media, and of the falsity of those same stories. The British media, however, while retreating from its "massacre" language, has never backed down from or apologized for its wildly inflated coverage. Two years later, in an article about the UN's rebuilding of Jenin, replete with references to the threat Israel continues to pose to a town even the BBC acknowledges is a "Martyrs' Capital", a BBC report neutrally reported that "The battle of Jenin sparked international outcry" and that "Charges of war crimes committed by Israel were made, while Palestinian authorities made unsubstantiated claims of a wide-scale massacre," without ever mentioning its own role in emphasizing the rumors while downplaying any contrary reports. Click on Jenin Massacre to view full entry.

Joe Biden

John Edwards

Coverage of John Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter.

Katrina

2005's Hurricane Katrina left a staggering aftermath in loss of life and property. Some of the early reports from New Orleans however, particularly those immediately following the storm, were later found to be inaccurate or completely untrue. Communications failures and news reporters eager for something to report resulted in some stories being spread that, although later found to be untrue, persist to this day. Some of the news reports of rape and murder in the Superdome and the Convention Center, for example, were later found to be based on unsubstantiated rumors, and civil rights leader Randall Robinson's claim that "black hurricane victims in New Orleans have begun eating corpses to survive" was later retracted. In addition to inaccurate stories, some of the reporting of the racial makeup of the victims of the hurricane were misrepresented. Click on Katrina to view the complete entry.

Massacre at Um al-Abeed

The Associated Press, Reuters, and a small Iraqi Independent news agency called Voice of Iraq released stories on June 28, 2007 about the massacre of 20 men near Salman Pak in Um al-Abeed. The men were supposedly found decapitated on the banks of the Tigris River. The only two sources for the Associated Press article were anonymous police, not located in Salman Pak, but from Baghdad (more than a dozen miles away) and Kut (more than 75 miles away). On June 30, 2007 Reuters reported that according to the U.S. military, the stories were "untrue and may have been planted by insurgents to provoke revenge attacks." Click on Massacre at Um al-Abeed to view full entry.

Media Malfeasance

General wrongful conduct by the media.

Mohammad Al-Dura incident

Both the Second Intifadah and a sudden and dramatic nosedive in Israel's already low standing around the world got their impetus from a horrific video shown on French TV: the death of 12 year old Palestinian boy as collateral damage in a shoot out between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. Muhammad Al-Durah became an instant martyr. Of course, as you probably also know, it was a fake. It never happened. It was a propaganda coup from beginning to end, all done with the complicity of France2.

Matters are now coming to a head. In October 2006, Philippe Karsenty was found libel for defamation against France 2 and film maker Charles Enderlin, based upon his claim that they knowingly showed false footage. That judgment is on appeal, and the Appellate Court has ordered that France 2, before October 31, 2007, must turn over to the Court the unedited raw footage that France 2 cameraman Talal Abu Rahma shot on September 30th and October 1st 2000.

Nancy Pelosi

Newspapers

Online publications

Pallywood

The term Pallywood is used to refer to media manipulation, including staged events reported as news, in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Click on Pallywood to view full entry.

Plagiarism

While not "myths," cases of plagiarism are occasionally discovered in major media reports and some will be included here. Click on Plagiarism to view the full entry.


Plame/Wilson

Coverage of the claims of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame against the Bush administration.

Political Party Identification

Sometimes media outlets selectively report party identification when reporting on politicians. This is of particular significance when the report is regarding a scandal.

Questionable Military Accounts

News stories based on accounts from those in the military, or professing to be in the military, which were later found to be either in whole or in part fictional. Click on Questionable Military Accounts to view the full entry consisting of various individual stories.

Rathergate

Also referred to as "memogate" is the scandal surrounding the 60 Minutes II story aired on CBS on September 8, 2004 about George W. Bush's National Guard service. Memos providing the basis for many of the claims in the report were supposedly created in 1973 and found in the files of the late Colonel Jerry B. Killian. Bloggers and blog readers investigated the suspicious looking documents which were made available to the public on the CBS website and found them to almost certainly be poor forgeries created on a modern era word processor. Four CBS employees lost their jobs over the report. Dan Rather famously defended the report, claiming the memos might be "fake, but accurate" and later went into early retirement. This story is an example of the media using questionable documents. Click on Rathergate for the full entry.

Repetition

Ronald Reagan

Sammy Davis Jr.

Scott Thomas Beauchamp

The New Republic published a series (three stories) about the war in Iraq by a Baghdad diarist, a soldier going by the name of "Scott Thomas." Questions were asked about the authenticity of the claims, most notably by Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard. Scott Thomas came forward and revealed his identity, Scott Thomas Beauchamp, and the Army investigated the matter of Beauchamp's stories. As of August 11, 2007, The New Republic stood by the Beauchamp stories they published (with an exception regarding some details). Click on Scott Thomas Beauchamp to view the full entry.

Second Amendment

Stephen Glass

Stephen Glass was a reporter for The New Republic. He was fired in 1998 for writing articles based on fake quotes from people who did not exist about events that did not occur. His fraudulent stories were exposed by Adam Penenberg in an article at Forbes.com.

Supreme Court

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth

A new verb, “swiftboating,” was coined by some on the left and in the media to represent political charges that are “unsubstantiated,” in reference to the case presented by the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth against John Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign. Although the Swift Boat veterans' claims were frequently described in media reports to be unsubstantiated, most of the claims were corroborated by evidence and witness reports, and other researchers confirmed many elements of their claims. Click on Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to view the full entry.

Tailwind

Tea Party Movement

In early 2009, protests were held in various U.S. cities in reaction to President Barack Obama's "stimulus" bill, increased government spending and government bailouts. On Feb. 19, when reporting on President Obama's proposed mortgage bailout plan, CNBC’s Rick Santelli issued a call for a national “Tea Party.” Although "tea parties" were held in dozens of cities across America and were attended by thousands, they did not receive significant media coverage until April 15, 2009 when Nationwide Tax Day Tea Parties were held simultaneously in hundreds of U.S. cities, and in all 50 states.

Terrorism

The Constitution

The Founding Fathers

Torture

Coverage of debate over the issue of torture includes Obama administration release of Justice Department memos concerning "enhanced interrogation methods."

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