The AP Maligns Our Soldiers On Memorial Day Weekend

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on May 28, 2008

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Read the excerpt below (from Warner Todd Huston's report posted at NewsBusters.org). Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

It’s a happy Memorial Day from the Associated Press as they inform the nation that a few Marines involved themselves in a “shooting spree” in Afghanistan. Yes, the AP makes it seem as if our Marines began “firing indiscriminately at vehicles and civilians” during a March 4th altercation near Nangarhar province. But, a closer read finds a far murkier story and one that seems to say that our Marines didn’t go wild but that they thought they were under attack. Whether the Marines were right or wrong about being attacked is the real question at the end of the day. But whatever the case, right at the outset the AP presented the incident as if the Marines were in the wrong.

Even the headline casts the Marines actions in the negative: “Afghans appalled Marines not charged in killings.”  No benefit of the doubt there. In fact, the whole first half of the story explores the charges against the Marines before a single word in their defense appears.

Afghan officials expressed outrage Saturday at the decision by the U.S. military not to charge U.S. Marines involved in a shooting spree that left 19 Afghan civilians dead in 2007.

…Afghan witnesses and a report by Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission concluded that a unit of Marine special operations troops opened fire along a 10-mile (16 kilometer) stretch of road, killing up to 19 civilians and wounding 50 other people.

However, we come to discover that the Marines determined that the soldiers “acted appropriately and in accordance with the rules of engagement and tactics, techniques and procedures in place at the time in response to a complex attack.” And that the incident occurred after their convoy was hit by a suicide bomber. And we also find out that this ruling came after a three-week tribunal investigating the charges was held.

Now, an unbiased reporting of this story would have been headlined something more like “Marines Vindicated in Shootings,” or even “After Marines Cleared, Afghans Still Unhappy.” But, no, the headline used seems more like the Marines were merely allowed to kill civilians without even being required to face even an investigation.

CNN didn’t help this story to be presented better, either. On the CNN webpage upon which this AP story appears, all the “story highlights” but one stress the aspect of the story that mitigate against the Marines involved. …

Visit NewsBusters.org for the original post.

Questions

1.  What type of bias is the AP article below an example of?

2.  Define malign.

3.  NewsBusters.org’s Warner Todd Huston said that the AP/CNN headline ‘Afghans appalled Marines not charged in killings’ “made it seem more like the Marines were merely allowed to kill civilians without even being required to face even an investigation” and that “An unbiased reporting of this story would have been headlined something more like ‘Marines Vindicated in Shootings,’ or even ‘After Marines Cleared, Afghans Still Unhappy.’
Do you agree with Mr. Huston’s assertion?  Explain your answer.


Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answers.
























Answer(s)

1.  The AP article is an example of bias by PLACEMENT (in this case the AP placed information that explained the U.S. soldiers’ position in a place in the article to downplay it – it portrayed the event in an inaccurate light) and SPIN (Spin makes one side’s ideological perspective look better than another – in this case the perspective of the Afghan civilians was potrayed in a more sympathetic light than that of the soldiers – without further knowledge of the story the reader would feel that the soldiers had, unprovoked, viciously attacked innocent Afghan civilians.)

2.  malign – to say false and unpleasant things about someone or to unfairly criticize them (from dictionary.cambridge.org)

3.  Opinion question. Answers vary.