Democracy varies through the lens of the media

Democracy varies through the lens of the media

As the Capitol Building was threatened in early January  journalists around the world were tasked with the heartbreaking duty of making sense of the mess and relaying it. The general points were the same – a group of Trump-aligned people breached the Capitol building and violently destroyed property, threatened lawmakers and left the country in shock and in shambles. However, as different news sources reported the facts, bias within the media was revealed.

Several news stations are known to blatantly influence their news stories using their own bias and prejudices, aligning themselves strongly with specific political parties. Fox News, for example, has been called out several times for their right-wing pandering, which could be clearly shown throughout their recounts of the attacks on Capitol Hill. Some headlines even praised the attackers, calling them patriots for their protest, while others said “Dems ‘caught up in their own mob mentality,’ trying to ‘blame everything on Trump’: Hurt” and “Democracy was ‘attacked’ and ‘we resumed the democratic process’: Rep. Mast.” 

CNN is a source commonly known to lean left in its reporting. It has faced criticism in the past and has been accused of spinning the facts to align with a liberal agenda. However, its reports on the Capitol attacks were generally objective, with few exaggerated descriptions or blatantly politically biased terminology.

They called the attacks “Capitol riots” and “Washington DC riots”, which are accurate descriptions of the violence with little political spin. The people involved were described as “rioters” or “attackers”. Little political opinion was injected into CNN’s reporting of the attacks, which is a shift from some of its more liberal pieces that have been published during similarly tumultuous times.

The New York Times depicted the attack as “a mob of his supporters storming the U.S. Capitol following a rally in which Mr. Trump once again falsely claimed widespread voter fraud” and criticized Trump’s reactions to the election results and to the subsequent events.

The Washington Post, although they have consistently supported Republicans over Democrats, accused Trump of inciting the mob and described the furious retreat. Both sources remained somewhat neutral on Nancy Pelosi’s attempts to impeach Trump in his last two weeks of candidacy but described the attacks on the Capitol and Trump’s role in them very negatively.

In addition to newspapers, lots of broadcasting companies are reporting about the riots in the Capitol, many of them with their own biases and prejudices. Many different radio stations and broadcasting companies have taken their own spin on the attacks and used different terminologies to describe what happened. However, MSNBC has very few of them. They have described the attackers as “Pro-Trump mobs” and simply referred to the attacks as “Capitol Violence”.

Also, MSNBC has not villainized the attacks. Most of their stories did not comment on Trump’s relation to these attacks, they simply focus on the attacks themselves and the lasting damage that they will have. Although MSNBC is slightly left-leaning and that is noticeable in their articles and broadcasts, overall they are a very neutral source and an informative one.

The terminology used to describe the people involved, the nature of the event and the political aftermath varied from source to source. Although the differences were subtle, they made all the difference in revealing the politically charged bias of each.