How To Manipulate Readers With ‘Expert’ Slanted Reporting

Tuesday, 23 August 2022 — Moon of Alabama

Imran Khan, a former cricket star who went into politics and became Prime Minister of Pakistan, had been ousted by bribing and threatening politicians of his coalition to turn against him. Khan had developed good relations with China and Russia and was against allowing the U.S. military to use Pakistan as a base for attacks in Afghanistan.

The new Pakistani government under Shehbaz Sharif has turned out to follow opposite policies. But it is increasingly unpopular. Imran Khan has used his popularity to raise a public ruckus against the ruling elite and the military and judicial forces behind it. He and his PKI party have good chances to win in the next election.

U.S. media reporting about Khan is thus conflicted. While it tries to show him in a negative light it can not simply omit the facts that speak in his favor. Quoting partisan expert is one of its tools it uses to solve that conflict.

A recent New York Times demonstrates this technique.

Pakistan’s Imran Khan Is Now the Target of Forces He Once Wielded
Old allies like the military have turned against him, but the former prime minister’s appeal on the street has only grown stronger, setting up a dangerous showdown.

The opener:

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s allies have been arrested. Media outlets and public figures considered sympathetic to him have been intimidated or silenced. He has been hit with charges under Pakistan’s antiterrorism act and faces the prospect of arrest.

For weeks, Pakistan has been gripped by a political showdown between the ruling establishment and Mr. Khan, the former cricket star turned populist politician who was ousted from the prime minister post this year.

A local expert is quoted in paragraph seven of the NYT piece:

“The former prime minister has been accused of threatening government officials — they are serious allegations bringing the confrontation between him and the federal government to a head,” said Zahid Hussain, an Islamabad-based political analyst and a columnist for Dawn, the country’s leading daily. “Any move to arrest him could ignite an already volatile political situation.”

Khan has been accused of “threatening government officials” and these are “serious allegations” claims that local analyst.

However, a few paragraphs later we learn that there were no threads at all but only the announcement of regular legal action:

In an echo of that political script, on Sunday Mr. Khan was charged under Pakistan’s antiterrorism act after giving a speech to thousands of supporters in the capital, Islamabad, in which he threatened legal action against senior police officers and a judge involved in the recent arrest of one of his top aides.

Announcing a well founded legal complaint against some officials is certainly not an act of  terrorism. It is not consistent with “threatening government officials” or a “serious allegation” against Khan. It is simply the exercise of the right of every person under law.

Another case of using an ‘expert’ to slant the piece into a certain direction follows in paragraph thirteen:

“What differentiates this moment from previous moments is the amount of sheer street power Khan has,” said Madiha Afzal, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “And street power makes a difference in Pakistan even when it does not translate into electoral votes.

“Even when it does not translate into electoral votes” lets the reader assume that Khan does not have the support at the ballot box where it counts.

However, the opposite is the case. Six paragraphs on the facts sneak in and debunk the Brookings ‘expert’:

In the past two months, Mr. Khan has managed to parlay his widespread support into electoral prowess. His party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, won sweeping victories in local elections in Punjab — a province that has often served as a bellwether for national politics — and in the port city of Karachi.

Why, one wonders, do the NYT authors bother to quote two ‘experts’ when both are evidently wrong and contradicted by the facts further down in the piece? Why are those misleading opinions given more prominent places than the historical record?

One gets the impression that the original reporting in the piece was written factually. But the editorial process at the Times then insisted on adding ‘expert’ voices to give it the desired slant. The preferred placing of those voices above the facts will mislead non-diligent readers of the resulting effusion.

This technique is only one of several low level manipulations used in ‘reporting’ by the Times and other media. Sneaking opinionated voices into factual reporting reveals the perception media intends to impose on their readers.

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