Thursday, June 23, 2005

Headline Wars

Mr. Cieciel at Spitting Image (lots of good stuff there; I found this issue via a link on Unknown News) notes the very odd choice of headline used by the Associated Press for an article on a new weapon employed by Israel:

"Israel May Use Sound Weapon on Settlers".

When you read the article, however, you learn something rather different:

"The army employed the new device, which it dubbed 'The Scream,' at a recent violent demonstration by Palestinians and Jewish sympathizers against Israel's West Bank separation barrier.

Protesters covered their ears and grabbed their heads, overcome by dizziness and nausea, after the vehicle-mounted device began sending out bursts of audible, but not loud, sound at intervals of about 10 seconds. An Associated Press photographer at the scene said that even after he covered his ears, he continued to hear the sound ringing in his head."

The headline is effectively a form of lie as it hides the real 'news', the fact that Israel has already used the weapon against real people protesting the separation barrier. The speculation about its possible use against the settlers allows the Associated Press to bury the lede. I did not even bother to read the article when it appeared, as I found speculation that the weapon might be used against the settlers uninteresting, and had no way of knowing, based on the headline, what the real content of the article was.

We have recently seen newspaper editors in the United States use as an excuse for their failure to cover the Downing Street memo the fact that the issue hadn't been covered by the Associated Press. We thus gained insight into how easy it is for the whole content of the news to be controlled. Now we see a blatant example of the use of a misleading headline to hide the news. Sanjoy Mahajan does a masterful job of analyzing how the New York Times is managing the Downing Street memo crisis, including comparing the misleading headlines used in the Times to the straightforward headlines used in Britain (the editors at the Times are masters at spinning a headline to make it misleading and hide the importance of the content of the article). The press in the United States has become so corrupt, with so many tricks up its sleeve, that it has become worthless for assessing what is really happening in the world.