Thursday, March 13, 2008

LifeSite News: A Study in Bias and Propaganda

On any given day, a reader with any semblance of critical reading skills can take a day's sample of LifeSiteNews' headlines and find error, lies, and distortions of the truth. (I have blogged about several egregious example previously). As my friend Jane Know said one time, when a person cites LifeSiteNews believing that it's honest, accurate, or unbiased journalism, it sort of automatically discredits that person as an arbiter of competence or journalistic integrity.

My case? Read below.

1. Misleading Headlines and Non-Arguments

An oft-used LifeSite trick is to offer misleading, hyperbolic, and/or erroneous headlines linking to Lifesite-written articles, articles at other sites, or editorials.

For instance, the other day, LifeSite listed the following headline:

"Legal Expert Claims that Unborn Babies are Really Chimpanzees"

This headline is erroneous because the "legal expert" actually said this:

"For the topic of abortion, there are very important scientific advances that prove that the DNA of chimpanzees is 99 percent identical to that of a human being. The difference between ourselves and chimpanzees is one percent, this quantity that makes the difference is the central nervous system.

Before twelve weeks of gestation, there is no cerebral cortex, that is to say, there is no human being, the cortex is formed around the 25th week. This is a very important piece of information because those who attack abortion say that a human being is being killed and it isn't true."

Disregarding for a moment whether this statement is true, it is apparent that nowhere did this expert say that unborn babies are chimpanzees. In fact, it is a poor analysis and summary of what was actually said and completely misses the point. Human beings are similar to chimps, but not exactly alike. Therefore, human babies are not chimps. Simple really.

Nice try, LifeSite.

Now, on to whether the expert's statement is true. A principle of Journalism 101 is that when presenting a "controversial" issue, the journalist should present at least two sides to the issue. Here is the "other" side to the chimp statement that Lifesite presents:

"That's ridiculous," said Dr. John Shea, medical advisor to Canada's Campaign Life Coalition. "This is the most ignorant remark I think the man could possibly make. He must be totally ignorant of science. That's so ignorant that I don't know where to begin."

Okay, so the remark is "ignorant." But how so? If Dr. Shea doesn't know where to begin, may I suggest that he begin at the beginning of his argument. Which, as we all know, is a very good place to start. But alas, he only continues stating his conclusions as fact:

"The organism is different in every single way. A person is different in a trillion different biochemical ways. It's ludicrous, ludicrous. It's on it's face, ridiculous."

So that's all settled then.

This case, actually, is great example of the typical propaganda that Lifesite uses. In just a few short paragraphs, they have lied about what a pro-choicer actually said, and they have presented a biased expert from a pro-life organization distractingly blustering his conclusions as fact- an expert who appears so enraged, in fact, that we all sort of forget what the original argument was or was not and because the expert is so passionate in his response we are led to believe that pro-choicers are ignorant, ludicrous, and preposterous.(!!) Now, what were we talking about again? Oh yeah, something about how pro-choicers think babies are just chimps.

2. LifeSite's Agenda

Generally speaking, there probably is no completely neutral source of news. Every company and every group of people who come together to report the news have an interest in keeping the company and group in a positive light. Upon reading any news source, I automatically ask myself if there is a possible conflict of interest between the story I am reading and the source of the news.

Let's explore. As its website explains, Lifesite was originally started by a pro-life organization in Canada. It claims to emphasize "the social worth of traditional Judeo-Christian principles" while also being "respectful of all authentic religions and cultures that esteem life, family and universal norms of morality." (Emphasis added. More on that in a minute).

Right off, the worldview of LifeSiteNews and the assumptions it makes about the world are apparent: abortion is wrong, it values Judeo-Christian principles, it has an... interesting....idea of tolerance, and it believes there are universal norms of morality- namely, their norms of morality. For instance, note how LifeSiteNews only thinks it is necessary to respect those religions and cultures that are "authentic." That is an important qualifier as we can all guess which religions and cultures are in-authentic, according to ultimate-arbiter-of-all-that-is-authentic LifeSiteNews.

But moving on, and breaking out the tinfoil hats, LifeSiteNews believes there is an "international conflict" between those with opposing views of the world. This conflict is between Christians and non-Christians, with the non-Christians seeking to impose a (dun-dun-dun) "new world order" where abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and cloning are rampant. Rampant I tell you!!

Clearly, LifeSiteNews is a completely unbiased source for news.

Read, for instance, how:

A Catholic hospital offers breast implants to a "transsexual" patient. (Those crazy-not-the-right-kind-of-Christian Catholics, you know!)

Read of the dangers that the "fundamentalist expansion of Islam" into North America poses! (A fundamentalist Christian website would never be biased about such a story!)

Read about why Muslims are so dang violent! (Hint: Jesus was way better than Muhammad).

Or maybe you'd like to read about how a Catholic priest recently opposed LifeSite's founders in Parliament. (I can't imagine why!)

Extra extra, read all about it. LifeSiteNews: Continuing to bring new meaning to "education" and "accuracy"!

If by "education" and "accuracy" we really mean a collection of misleading headlines attached to any bit of news that can be spun into propaganda to please its hateful, intolerant, anti-gay, anti-liberal, anti-Democrat, anti-feminist, fundamentalist Christian crowd of readers.

Fair and accurate my ass.

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