“What makes it news is its dissemination, not its objective reality.” - Jacques Ellul Imagine two scenarios. A given city had 10,000 shoplifting incidents in 2023 and 15,000 shoplifting incidents in 2022. In 2023, a local tv news outlet ran a story every day about a different shoplifting incident. In 2022, the news ran only 15 stories all year on shoplifting incidents. In which city do you think the public is more likely to believe shoplifting is a greater problem, in the city with more shoplifting, or the city with 25 times more stories about shoplifting?
You are doing great work here. I mean, I consume a lot of news and consider myself pretty sophisticated on matters of criminal justice ( I was am a retired attorney) and I am aware that many news outlets exaggerate crime but I would not have put the NYT and NPR on the list. So many people are totally in the dark about this and I will be sharing.
Excellent article, once again. Maybe you should write a book on the mechanics of propaganda. It's an incredibly important topic, maybe the MOST important one as propaganda controls entire populations for the benefit of elites, and is being used, intentionally or otherwise, to end civilization via minimizing the dangers of war and environmental destruction.
Your work is so important, especially at this juncture in history. The onslaught of non-stop fearmongering around crime is exhausting, especially here in the SF Bay Area - so reading your posts is a welcome breath of fresh air.
This is great work, as always. Within all local governments, whether big cities or small towns, the law enforcement departments are often the best organized and most vocal. They have a lot to lose after all. These departments are typically the largest in their areas, drawing a lot of funding and with it political power. In turn, they usually have fairly close relationships with the press (even the antagonistic relationships are relationships after all). At minimum, they feed local press low hanging news fruit: police blotter, booking photos etc, in return they get white glove treatment or at worst an assumption that what they report is fact.
Also, my husband (who is also a retired attorney) and I have had many discussions about how police on the witness stand are professional liars. That would be another area for some brave soul to write about. I worked for a time in the Court system and can tell you that LEOs, at least in the 80s, were treated as presumptively truthful in a way other witnesses were not, when in fact they lied far more often.
I’m experiencing this now as an air traffic controller. Safer than ever but not to NYT writers who know nothing about Aviation but watch “near midair” YouTube
In which city or during which year? 🤔
More great work.
Superb piece! Carving out the obvious from the murk. Well done!
You are marvelous. Never stop, please.
“...outlet just reports it, with no context, fact checking or skepticism.”
It is, of course, not limited to police-related (I was going to say journalism) reporting. Reporting means, in part, yes, being a stenographer. And with that dereliction there’s also the framing.
That said, my rule of thumb is that the more important the issue the more it’s reported dishonestly, in a way that the news consumer is, after the reportage, *more* poorly informed. Obviously, this goes beyond doing publicity for the police. Per the establishment media for one, there’s no alternative to unrestrained capitalism, notwithstanding that there’s close to fifty years of history saying not only that there is but the economy was better while capitalism was restrained (more prosperity more evenly and widely distributed). A way larger percentage of full time jobs paid living wages; that that’s down to ~75% is, at the least shameful and inexcusable -- and again, ignored by the aforesaid media.
There’s the areas of national security, finance, politics -- I could go on but I’m already boring me.