There’s an old patriotic joke about how the Soviet media spun a two-auto race in which an American car bested a Russian one. Went the reportage: “Russian car finishes second in race.
American car comes in next to last.”
But this joke has nothing on the modern Western media’s practices, which were on full display in the coverage of a recent Vatican speech on finances given by Pope Francis to visiting new ambassadors. For instance, The Telegraph ran the headline, “Pope Francis urges global leaders to end 'tyranny' of money.” Author Nick Squires then went on to “explain,” “He [the pope] said free-market capitalism had created a ‘tyranny’…. [That is,][u]nchecked capitalism had created ‘a new, invisible, and at times virtual, tyranny’, said the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.”
The pope never used the term “free-market capitalism.”
For that matter, he never mentioned capitalism or the “free market” at all.
Nor did his speech include the phrase the “tyranny of money.”
In fairness, Squires didn’t present the absent terms and phrases as quotations, but as elements of his own interpretation of what the pope meant. But his journalistic divination clearly is blind to the divine, as he thoroughly mischaracterized the theme of Francis’s speech.
To wit: Financiers, politicians, and economists should cultivate a God-centered ethics when pursuing their endeavors.
In fact, the words “ethics” and “ethical” were mentioned eight times in the pope’s 1000-word speech (which took mere minutes to deliver), and “God” appeared four times. But while Squires used terms in his article that Francis never uttered, he mentioned “ethical” only once, in passing, and “God” not at all.
This is deceptive — if not deceitful. Even if a reader notes your cut-and-paste efforts — which are a legitimate part of good summarization — he will likely assume that you’re seeking to distill, not distort, the essence of the story. And in Squires’ case the reader can’t easily compare notes, either, since the author departed from common practice and did not provide a link to what the pope actually said. Surprise, surprise.
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