Manufacturing Outrage

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Richard B Riddick

The media industry’s spiral of decline has resulted in journalists seeking to create the “story” rather than to simply report it, in order to better drive engagement via controversy.

Their preferred weapon of choice is the loaded question, particularly one where the question presupposes that all of the possible answers will be controversial to someone.

The below example is of this technique in a non-political context, but it’s pretty clear to see tension in Tom Hardy when being put upon to respond to a controversial issue with wide ranging societal ramifications.

However to some extent, politicians are expected to deal with this sort of thing. Personally, I’d prefer if journalists didn’t do this, but point scoring and theatre is the easiest way to make headway in the 24 hour news cycle.

Here is one example:

And another:

However, it does intrigue me whenever the media tries to do it to a non-politician in order to create a controversy, particular when it is a political controversy.

Nick Kyrgios was recently on the receiving end of a loaded question:

Reporter: “You’re friends with the American football player Colin Kaepernick and have been supportive of him in the past, what are your thoughts on his not being signed by an American football team this season?”

Nick Kyrgios: “I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to that dude in my life.”

R: “But what are your thoughts about that?”

NK: “Where does that question even come from? We’re at the Australian Open, man. Are we done?”

“Kyrgios was left shaking his head and struggled to find the words before his final part in the bizarre exchange — which prompted an awkward end to his media obligations.

“Kaepernick — the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback — made headlines in America for kneeling during the national anthem before games to protest police brutality and racial injustice. He was the catalyst for a movement that has since swept across the NFL, with many more players following his lead.

“But if Kyrgios has been following Kaepernick’s career, he sure didn’t show it.”

I believe the reporter attempted this line of questioning because of Kyrgios’ kneeling at the Laver Cup.

This kneeling was falsely reported by many news outlets as being linked to the American NFL, Colin Kaepernick and American race politics, all without a comment from Kyrgios.

Nick Kyrgios.

Comments from Kyrgios later in the same day revealed it was all a beat-up (Kyrgios couldn’t clarify immediately as the articles were published whilst he was kneeling and he played his match immediately after the anthem):

“But Kyrgios explained that it was something he does before most matches, and is done in honour of his late grandmother and grandfather.”

“I’m doing that before most matches just to remember, you know, the two most important people that have passed away,” said world No.20 Kyrgios.

“I just take a knee to remember those before I go out there and play.”

“And, prompted whether it had anything to do with the Trump protest, he offered a puzzled look and a forthright response: “F**k, no. Serious? What?”

To me this looks like an American reporter struggling to find something to write about, googling the name of Kygrios, finding the still online incorrect articles about him kneeling, and then assuming he can restart that controversy by baiting Kyrgios into saying something anti-Trump or pro-Kaepernick.

Even though it was negligence or laziness that lead to this particular incident, it proves that the media actively seek to create stories, and whether by malice or negligence are happy to rely on their own demonstrably incorrect stories as evidence when convenient.

If this sort of fact-free, blatantly incorrect reporting is what they can do by accident, what do you think they do when they are being deliberate?

Photo by Carine06