‘Malice of Absence’ in Media Coverage of Border Assault
A photo of a mother and two small children running from a fogging canister, shot by Reuters photographer Kim Kyung-Hoon this past Sunday, has been splashed across just about every news outlet in the world. It is the media’s “money shot” from the migrant “caravan” that has now reached the border between Tijuana and San Diego.It depicts a mother and two small children on the Mexican side of the border running from what appears to be tear gas allegedly fired by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from the U.S. side of the border. But the use of this photo, much like the one of a crying child snapped a few months ago by Getty Images photographer John Moore earlier this year, evokes the tag line from Sydney Pollack’s 1981 film about journalistic malfeasance, Absence of Malice: “Suppose you picked up this morning’s newspaper and your life was a front page headline… And everything they said was accurate… But none of it was true.” Fast forward 37 years and the tag line here might read, “Suppose you picked up this morning’s newspaper and Border Patrol agents doing their jobs was a front page headline… And everything they said was accurate… But none of it was true.”The photo has not been doctored in any way. What is shows appears to be accurate. It’s what it doesn’t show, and the deliberate failure of many media outlets to provide the proper context, that makes it a distortion of the truth.This now ubiquitous photo does not show what led up to the moment photographer snapped it. It does not show the hundreds of migrants storming the border in an attempt to breach it. The photo does not show migrants hurling rocks – potentially lethal weapons – at U.S. Border Patrol agents on the other side of the border. It does not show that the vast majority of the migrants are not mothers and small children, but rather young men.It’s not as though the countless news outlets that ran this photo were unaware that some of the migrants had turned violent, or that caravan provocateurs were using women and children as human shields. Rather, caravan organizers were counting on the fact that a compliant media would broadcast the images of frightened children rather than rock-throwing men – and once again, the compliant media came through for them.But, despite the media’s best efforts to be accurate without being truthful about what is taking place at the border, occasionally the truth does leak out as it did in a Monday morning CNN interview with Rodney Scott, Border Patrol Chief for the San Diego sector. The truth is that the Border Patrol was not firing tear gas at women and children, but rather legitimately protecting themselves from rock-throwing men trying to assault them.FAIR is also compensating for malice of absence in the media coverage of the orchestrated assault on our border and sovereignty. A team of FAIR staff members is deployed at the border to get a firsthand account of what is taking place. That information is being disseminated through dozens of talk radio outlets and on FAIR’s social media sites. Stay tuned as FAIR continues to provide information and context that is conspicuously missing from much of the media’s coverage of this event.
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