AP reports are often multiplied uncritically across the world, even when their facts are wrong.
The power of media to shape public perception about a subject through carefully crafted words and phrases is evident in an Associated Press story about the Texas school board. AP reporter Will Weissert spared no stereotypes in his effort to create fear-mongering about one of his favorite bogeymen, the creationists.
- He referred to “long-simmering ideological objections” to evolution, not matters of fact and evidence.
- The critics of a textbook cited “alleged factual errors,” not real factual errors.
- “Creationists” are described as “those who see God’s hand in the creation of the universe.” Nothing is said of Darwin skeptics or intelligent design advocates.
- Those are set in opposition to “academics who worry about religious and political ideology trumping scientific fact.”
- Some of the committees for reviewing textbooks were “nominated by creationists”.
- Weissert claims one of the committees “argued that creationism based on biblical texts should be taught in science classes” (this is highly doubtful, but no evidence was cited).
- “Another objection called for emphasizing that modern discoveries in the fossil record reveal a ‘balance between gradualism and sudden appearance,’ suggesting that rather than developing over time, life got a boost from an intelligent designer.”
- The objections came from “the most conservative members among the board’s 10 Republicans.” The Democrats and some of the “more moderate Republicans” joined in “questioning whether reviewers’ objections were factually correct.”
- Weissert gave a prominence to a fear-mongering statement from one of the moderate Republicans: “‘I believe this process is being hijacked, this book is being held hostage to make political changes,’ said Thomas Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant who is the board’s vice chairman.” Ratcliffe apparently thought the debate over a factual error was “laughable.”
- Ratcliffe also “believes” the Pearson biology textbook is “being used in over half of the classrooms in the United States.”
Weissert’s report that apparently first appeared in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal was reprinted without corrections by the Houston Star-Telegram, USA Today, US News and World Report, and across the United States and abroad.
The power of the pen is mightier than the sword – especially today in the internet age. Falsehoods can be broadcast worldwide in minutes. I (David Coppedge) saw this after my JPL trial, when an AP reporter took the judge’s ruling, wrote a biased story, and put it on the web. I watched helplessly as that story multiplied around the US and even the world in minutes. A search for that story turned up thousands of hits as it spread to all the major news outlets, even the Times of India. Not a single reporter called me for my side of the story. One liberal judge had ruled against me without any explanation, and then one unseen reporter presented what the world would read as the “official” story of the trial. In that one night (as far as the world was concerned), years of work and evidence-gathering by my attorney and me, including 368 exhibits, ten counts of discrimination and retaliation, and hundreds of pages of facts and legal arguments went down the drain, except for what we were able to say to limited audiences in alternative media.
If AP said it, it must be true, right? Where are the independent investigative reporters doing their own work? It is shocking to see one reporter in one “recognized” media organization have that much power.
Thanks to alternative media, we can spin the story differently. Here’s how a Darwin skeptic liberated from the boilerplate room might revise Weissert’s article:
At a late-night meeting in Texas, long-successful ideological tactics against criticizing evolution nearly succeeded at allowing factual errors in a biology textbook to slip through. Undaunted, a majority on the Board of Education stood their ground. While extending preliminary approval of new science textbooks, they held up one biology tome because of its erroneous claims about Darwinian evolution.
With midnight looming, some board members (mostly Democrats and liberal Republicans) on Thursday tried to let the flawed biology text skip through the review process. The text is from Pearson Education, a publisher standing to profit enormously from the federal government’s Common Core campaign. The school board majority pointed to errors about natural selection, noting that the book fails to point out that Darwin’s mechanism lacks the creative power to generate new functional information, especially the profusion of new body plans at the “Cambrian explosion” seen in the fossil record.
Darwinists — those who deny anything but chance or natural law in the origin of the universe and life — have long objected to any attempts to allow academic freedom on the subject in science classes. Skeptics of evolution are concerned that the Pearson text’s one-sided presentation of evolution amounts to materialist and political ideology trumping scientific fact. Special-interest groups like the ACLU and NCSE have long obstructed attempts by the board to have evolution presented honestly. Texans, though, consistently approve of the statement, “When evidence for Darwinian evolution is taught, the evidence against it should also be taught.”
Exercise: continue rewriting the rest of Weissert’s article in a way that is fair to Darwin skeptics.