Monday, March 21, 2016

241.9 - Media failures: scare-mongering headline totally distorts the story

Media failures: scare-mongering headline totally distorts the story

I have on a number of occasions said that our major news media leave us as a people uninformed, malinformed, and misinformed. Part of that involves some good, old-fashioned fear-mongering done in the knowledge that many people do not read - or listen, as the case may be - past the headlines.

A good example of that was to be found on the AOL splash screen, early on March 15. The headline read (quoting exactly)
Missiles found aboard flight headed to US*
The subhead was (quoting exactly)
Bomb-sniffing dogs found two air-to-ground Hellfire missiles on a plane in Belgrade that was headed to Portland, OR, sources revealed on Monday.
If you went to the article, that was headlined
Serbia finds US-bound guided missiles on flight from Beirut
But if you read the actual article, which was from Reuters and which, remember, is not responsible for the headlines that get used, you learned in the very first sentence that the missiles were in reality dummy, US-made training missiles.

It turns out, as the article explains, that these "Hellfire missiles" were such in appearance only: They had neither warheads, nor rocket engines, nor guidance systems. They were in transit because they were being returned to the US manufacturer by the Lebanese army after they had finished using them in training for the Lebanese Armed Forces. Which means the only danger they presented was if one got dropped on your foot.

But what did we get? "Missiles found aboard flight headed to US!" "Hellfire missiles headed to Portland!" That is at best sloppy, lazy, and misleading.

Some will try to defend the headline as mere clickbait but that just makes it worse because it means that falsely-inflammatory, fear-mongering headline was done on purpose. That would take this well beyond irresponsible into outright journalistic malfeasance.

So yes, we are by our corporate media uninformed, malinformed, misinformed - and manipulated. And we are the worse for it.

Footnote: This apparently is a habit for AOL. On Monday, March 21, a splash screen headline blaring that a major city was "on alert" for 10 simultaneous terrorist attacks turned out to be a report that London city police have decided in the wake of the Paris attacks to plan for dealing with a larger number of simultaneous attacks than the three they had been using. No "alert" of any sort was involved.

*There is no link because the splash screen, of course, changes every few hours and the only link would be to the homepage of

Sources cited in links:

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