If you can remember a time before the media was oversaturated with coronavirus news, it was just over a week ago that President Trump retweeted a video of Joe Biden at a campaign rally appearing to endorse him. The video, which CNN (Lean Left media bias) called “dishonestly edited,” was originally tweeted by Dan Scavino, Assistant to the President and White House Director of Social Media:
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— Dan Scavino (@DanScavino) March 8, 2020
In the video, Biden stumbles over part of his speech. Supporters can be heard laughing as he says, “...turn this primary from a campaign that’s about negative attacks into one about what we’re for. Because we cannot get reelect...we cannot win this reelection. Excuse me. We can only re-elect Donald Trump."
The clip went viral — it has been viewed 6.9 million times as of this writing. However, it cut out the second part of Biden's sentence, in which he said, “Excuse me. We can only re-elect Donald Trump...if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It's gotta be a positive campaign."
It’s unclear if Trump knew the video was edited or not, but the video is a stark example of how online media often works these days: we see only part of a clip, fail to investigate further, and take what we saw as the full story. In reality, there’s often another perspective that paints a different picture. This is what many refer to as “fake news.” That’s because the term “fake news” doesn’t necessarily describe blatantly false information — it can also refer to omission of information, which paints a different picture. In this case, part of Biden’s speech was omitted, and the final result may be seen as fake news.
Deceptively edited viral videos are now a mainstay of modern media. Last year, media outlets and commentators accused students from Covington Catholic high school as having taunted a Native American elder at a rally; when a longer clip of the event emerged, it was clear the students hadn’t.
While CNN was quick to point out the unfair editing of Biden’s rally comments, neither side is innocent — the left media has also deceptively edited content to frame President Trump negatively.
In 2015, Left media outlets and commentators extensively criticized Trump for “calling Mexicans rapists” during one of his very first campaign speeches. MSNBC (Left media bias) ran a headline, ”Donald Trump’s Comments On Immigrants: They’re Rapists. They All Have AIDS.” Vox (Left media bias) ran a piece titled, “The real costs of Donald Trump’s anti-Mexican slur controversy, explained,” and included a bulleted list stating:
“1) Trump keeps calling Mexican immigrants rapists (and disease carriers)
This started all the way back during Trump's campaign launch on June 16, when — among plenty of other ridiculous things — he said that Mexican immigrants were "bringing drugs. And they're bringing crime. And they're rapists."
But the widely-shared quote does not fully capture what Trump said. What Trump actually stated was:
“The US has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems. Thank you. It's true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
You may not like Trump’s sentiment, but he didn’t call all Mexicans rapists — he was speaking about a group of the population. But you might not get that impression if you read news in a filter bubble.
Our media is so over-saturated with edited content and commentary, it can be nearly impossible to get unedited, original information. Going back to the source, we often find information that didn’t warrant everyone working themselves into a tizzy.
When consuming any sort of media, we have to remember that content that is replicated across our screens is usually that which has great memetic power — it is made to be highly clickable and shareable, not necessarily to tell the full story.
Julie Mastrine is the Director of Marketing at AllSides. She has a Lean Right bias.
This piece was reviewed by Henry Brechter, Managing Editor at AllSides. He has a Center bias.