Mainstream journalists and other left-wing activists are constantly complaining about "misinformation," sometimes referred to as fake news. They want to teach our children how to complain about it. Yet they often don't think twice about actively spreading misinformation when it suits their ideological (and financial) agenda.
For nearly 24 hours now, journalists and activists have been expressing outrage over a Tennessee county school board's decision to stop teaching Maus, a Holocaust-themed graphic novel, as part of the eighth grade language arts curriculum. Board members expressed concern about the book's profanity and depictions of nudity, but also suggested it could be "added back if there is no better alternative."
Nevertheless, almost every mainstream media outlet reporting the story has described the school board's action as a "ban," which sounds a lot scarier.
New York Times: "School Board in Tennessee Bans Teaching of Holocaust Novel ‘Maus'"
Washington Post: "Holocaust graphic novel ‘Maus' banned in Tennessee county schools over nudity and profanity"
Wall Street Journal: "Tennessee School Board Bans Holocaust Graphic Novel ‘Maus' Over ‘Vulgar' Words, Themes" (Note: The headline has now been revised. "Bans" has been changed to "pulls.")
The Guardian: "Tennessee school board bans Pulitzer prize-winning Holocaust novel, Maus"
USA Today: "School Board in Tennessee Bans Holocaust Novel ‘Maus'"
The Daily Beast: "School Board Bans Pulitzer-Winning Graphic Novel About the Holocaust"
BBC: "Tennessee school board bans teaching of Holocaust graphic novel Maus"
CNBC: "Tennessee school board bans Holocaust graphic novel ‘Maus' – author Art Spiegelman condemns the move as ‘Orwellian'"
Shockingly enough, CNN was one of the few mainstream outlets to accurately describe the school board's decision. The headline on the CNN website reads: "A Tennessee school board removed the graphic novel ‘Maus,' about the Holocaust, from curriculum due to language and nudity concerns." Of course, the network also invited the author on television to discuss his reaction to the book being "banned."
Sure, the accurate headline is long and awkward, and is less likely to inspire outrage and clicks. But that's not a good enough reason for mainstream journalists to spread misinformation. Derek Thompson, staff writer for the Atlantic, stated the obvious: Banning a book and removing a book from the school's curriculum "are really different things" that should not be equated for the sake of a shorter, flashier headline.
It's not as if most journalists don't know the difference. In almost every case, the inflammatory headlines are followed by a lede paragraph that accurately explains the school board's decision. One doesn't have to agree with that decision to be annoyed that mainstream media insists on spreading misinformation.
"I think removing MAUS from the curriculum is stupid. It's an amazing book!" Thompson wrote. "But claiming this is an ‘Orwellian' ‘ban' is not the most helpful way to describe things."
No, it's not. It's also foolish to assume that media outlets are trying to be "helpful" in their presentation of the news, rather than to deliberately stoke outrage at their ideological opponents, even at the expense of the truth. As many have observed over the years, journalists tend to be ruthlessly pedantic when it comes to stories involving Democratic politicians or fellow liberals. Not so much when it comes to conservatives.
Another thing worth noting: The school board's vote took place on Jan. 10. Mainstream media outlets didn't start reporting it until Wednesday evening, around the time that left-wing activist Judd Legum posted about the "ban" on Twitter, which says a lot about how professional journalists based in New York City and Washington, D.C., stay informed about what's happening in the rest of the country.
It's yet another example of how journalists continue to validate the public's lack of trust in the media.