What you read may not be what it seems

Socio-political activist Andrew Loh wrote about the falling journalism standards of The Straits Times today in his blog  http://andrewlohhp.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/unbelievable-straits-times/.

He took issue with the headline and and photo caption given by ST in its report on an event held yesterday at the Speakers Corner.  Former ISA detainees, supporters and members of the public had gathered at the Speakers Corner to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the “Marxist conspiracy” and to raise awareness of the atrocities that happened back in 1987.

Andrew argued in his blog post that it was wrong of ST to use the headline “Remembering the Marxist Conspiracy” without quotation marks on the words “marxist conspiracy” when those accused as marxists were never charged in court and when there had been so many doubts raised over their detention. By not using the quote marks, the Straits Times’ headline made it seem as if the “conspiracy” was true, as if it is a fact when it was not.

I agree with Andrew on this. But is it really the falling standards of journalism to blame or is such reporting deliberate and reflective of ST’s bias and unquestioning support of the PAP-led government?

Just think back to last year, when ST reported on a national survey that found that 1 out of 5 Singaporean youths surveyed had indicated that they want to leave Singapore to emigrate to another country if they can. Now to me (and to most other people I would think), these statistics sound very worrying and alarming.

It is One of FIVE, at least 20% of our youths who are the hope of our nation’s future, not 1 out of 50 and not even 1 out of 10 youths!  Yet guess what was the headline used by ST? I still recall it vividly as I was stunned that the ST headline read as “ONLY 1 out of 5 Youths” want to emigrate!

Note the clever insidious addition of the word ONLY and how it completely changes the meaning of this survey finding.

Contrast the headline which could have been used instead:
“1 out of every 5 youths wants to leave Singapore”
“Only 1 out of 5 youths wants to emigrate”

See the stark difference in how the entire tone and meaning changes? Enough said.

As to other more recent examples of mainstream media’s bias, look no further than the  declarations made by our Ministers that the “average Singaporean” and “majority of Singaporeans” will not be affected by rising cost of living and which were dutifully reported in the prime news pages of the major newspapers including the front page of the ST.

In other democratic countries, such ludicrous claims by the government would have been questioned and torn to shreds by the media in commentaries etc.  But in Uniquely Singapore, none of the major media questioned or challenged the ministers’ claims which run counter to reality and to what leading economists have said – that inflation here is a major worry.

With such obvious examples of slipshod journalism and bias (and lack of conscience I might add)  shown by our local major media, how can we trust what they report and write in their commentaries?

When digesting information be it from MSM or from online sources, we should always be careful and think about what we read as the clever use of words and language can change the nuances and even meaning of the messages.  Sometimes all it takes is a well-placed headline and a mischevious photo to plant certain thoughts in the readers’ minds.

Remember the recent ST by-election headline “WP faces allegations of dishonesty” and the accompanying photo of WP’s leader Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim blocking Png Eng Huat? That was cleverly done to cast doubts on WP.  Yet we know we will never ever see a similar headline that runs along the vein of “PAP faces Allegations of ……..” (fill in the blanks starting with gerrymandering) because the word “allegations” is an extremely loaded negative word.

Many MSM world-wide are most adept at using such manipulative skills to shape messages and mould public perceptions. The issue is to what extent should this be done? Isn’t it downright wrong when it misleads the public, hides essential national truths from the citizens and creates falsehoods?

For those of us who seek the truth, we will need to stay alert and learn to read between the lines to decipher what is true and what is false.

As the wise philosopher Blaise Pascal once said: “Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.”

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2 Responses to What you read may not be what it seems

  1. jackfoo108092834 says:

    You also need to consider the mental state of that guy who made that headline.
    I believe that he was honestlly telling himself,”wow,only 20%”,so what is wrong with that?
    I sincerely hope that you consider that point in future and teach others in future with your blog.

    • There is a big difference between an opinion piece and a news report. The MSM are supposed to keep news reports neutral without their subjective comments. Hence it is wrong and unethical to add the word “Only” in the headline which skews the readers’ interpretation of the stats. Imagine if they start doing it for other news reports like inflation …”Inflation in June rises by ONLY 5%” …. or a MSM headline that says “Foreigners Only make up less than 40% of population”…..

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