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How Biased Is the Corporate Media? Ask Auto Workers
Here’s a story about media bias. Not the flagrant, pure propaganda that defines partisan outfits like Fox News, but the daily drip, drip, drip of slanted perspectives and loaded words that lard so many of the reports put out by establishment media outlets.
In particular, when these sources of supposedly “straight journalism” cover labor issues, environmental conflicts, consumer rights, tenant battles and such, they regularly slant their reports with corporate terminology, assumptions and viewpoints. For example, when auto workers launched their momentous national strike last week, so many mainline news stories were subtly-but-surely twisted to cast rich executives and shareholders as voices of reason victimized by union bosses.
Consider the Wall Street Journal’s Friday morning article announcing the UAW’s walkout. The story quickly plunged into an assertion by Ford’s CEO that the union’s leaders “refused to engage in a responsible manner.” In case readers missed this industry talking point, the Journal quoted another Big Three honcho four lines later, mouthing the exact same line. But… was the UAW really irresponsible, and—hello—could it be that the auto CEOs were the irresponsible players? The Journal didn’t inquire about these basic facts.
Then, the WSJ quoted a General Motors PR claim that it had “made an unprecedented offer to the union.” How grand! But “unprecedented” doesn’t mean good or fair. Was it? The paper offers no insight, though it does declare on its own that “a sharp increase in labor costs would come at a bad time.” Really? When would auto bosses and Journal editors consider it to be a good time for workers to get a pay increase? No follow-up to that obvious question.
The Journal also resorted demonizing UAW president Shawn Fain, gratuitously labeling him a “firebrand,” which the dictionary defines as “a person who kindles strife—a troublemaker.” A more honest depiction is that Fain—and the feisty UAW membership—are gutsy champions of economic fairness battling plutocratic greed. The actual troublemakers in this story are the auto chiefs and profiteers, along with their media protectors, who now assert that the autoworkers’ demands are “unsustainable.” The obvious question, as taught in beginning journalism classes, is unsustainable for whom?
Interestingly, while the Journal’s report portrays the autoworkers’ demand for a 40 percent pay hike over the next four years as an irresponsible ask, the paper doesn’t even whisper that the CEOs of this three trillion-dollar industry have recently pocketed 40 percent hikes in their take-home, now amounting to $21 million a year for Ford’s chief, $25 million for Stellantis’ boss, and $29 million for GM’s CEO.
This disparity is not secret information. Our little four-person Hightower Substack uncovered it with just a little digging. Media empires like the Wall Street Journal know the truth of it, too, but they’re in service to the existing hierarchies of power, even willing to abandon basic journalistic ethics to distort an inspiring news story of everyday people striving for a little more economic justice in our world.
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