Wednesday, February 28, 2024

I Noticed…

Back when marriage equality was being heard in the courts one of the things that I noticed was on the evening news. When they brought in a religious leader it was always a far right preacher, never a religious leader from an affirming church. Controversy sells ads.
Profiting From Moral Panic
How Profit-Driven Media Outlets Empowered the Anti-Trans Movement
The Flaw
By Simone Unwalla
January 21, 2024

In 2018, there were nineteen bills targeting transgender people in state legislatures across the United States.  In 2020, there were sixty.  Today, there are five hundred and forty-one.  The avalanche of legislative efforts to restrict and punish trans people has increased in both pace and severity over the past few years.  The crusade started with laws purporting to “protect children,” but it quickly evolved into a broader legislative assault on nearly all aspects of trans existence. This includes laws criminalizing trans people’s use of public restrooms, laws prohibiting essential gender-affirming health care, and “drag bans” that are so broadly defined as to threaten trans and gender-nonconforming people’s ability to simply exist in public as themselves.  This rapid escalation would not have been possible without a dominant narrative that positioned transness as a political debate and that validated the claims that transness poses a threat to children.  This article examines that narrative and the profit-driven media outlets that perpetuated it.

When conservatives started invoking anti-trans rhetoric to rally support among the Political Right, mainstream media outlets reinforced the anti-trans movement’s unscientific “child protection” claims, sensationalized them, and profited from the resulting panic.  We know the story of how conservative outlets like Fox News brazenly vilified the trans community.  But another important story is how liberal-leaning outlets like the New York Times helped anti-trans panic catch fire under a veil of objectivity and through misleading “both-sides” reporting.  Outlets like the Times didn’t just capitalize on transphobic rhetoric, they actively legitimized it and spread it to new audiences.

Like the conservative coverage, the liberal coverage stirred up moral panic.  Moral panic translated to clicks, profit, and an increasingly captive audience.  At the same time, non-stop coverage from reputable outlets like the Times allowed anti-trans activists to capture dominant narratives, turn transness into a political “debate,” and set the stage for the rapidly evolving legislative landscape that now threatens the trans community’s existence.  Many outlets have profited from perpetuating anti-trans hysteria, but this article focuses on the distinct culpability of the New York Times — an outlet long regarded as the “paper of record” that has peddled some of the most notoriously anti-trans reporting under the guise of neutrality.
Repeat are me… newspapers make profits they thrive on discord. If everyone is singing “Kumbaya” it doesn’t draw an audience. But Jerry Springer had people standing in line to see the show.
In February 2023, over a thousand current and former New York Times contributors signed an open letter expressing “serious concerns about editorial bias in the newspaper’s reporting on transgender, non⁠-⁠binary, and gender nonconforming people.”  The letter condemned the outlet’s coverage, highlighting that “the Times has in recent years treated gender diversity with an eerily familiar mix of pseudoscience and euphemistic, charged language, while publishing reporting on trans children that omits relevant information about its sources.”  “Plenty of reporters at the Times cover trans issues fairly,” the letter reads.  “Their work is eclipsed, however, by what one journalist has calculated as over 15,000 words of front-page Times coverage debating the propriety of medical care for trans children published in the last eight months alone.”
Do you think that the paper did that deliberately? It probably gave them a kick in readership, they got the right-wingers to read the article and the fired-up liberals to also read and comment. $$$$

Sometimes there is only one side… there are no two sides to slavery. There are no two sides for our rights… there is only our oppression or our freedom.
The first pitfall of the Times’ neutrality defense is the fiction that reporting can ever embody an objective “view from nowhere” perspective.  As explained by Maximillian Alvarez, Editor-in-Chief of the Real News Network, as a matter of principle “there’s no such thing as objectivity in journalism because we are all human beings with a limited perspective.”  Drawing from an argument made by Michel-Rolph Trouillot in Silencing the Past, Alvarez offers a simple example to illustrate this point.  “Imagine you are a sports caster trying to report on the game that’s in process,” he suggested.  “You are in the stadium, and the game is going.  There are tens of thousands, if not over one-hundred-thousand people in that stadium.  There are concessions people.  There are fights breaking out.  There are people on the bench.  You’re not going to report on everything that’s happening in that stadium.  By narrative necessity, you’re going to make choices about what to focus on.  You’re going to make assumptions about what your audience believes is important and is worth reporting on, so on and so forth.  The New York Times, just like every other outlet, makes those very same choices.”  
As James Baldwin said, “We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”

The bottom line is what counts, there is no moral ground in the news… it is all driven by the worship of the almighty dollar.

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