Each week, AllSides Media Bias Alerts examine media bias in coverage of a major or important story using the AllSides Media Bias Ratings™ and our Media Bias Chart™.
From the Center
A large protest of COVID-19 public health measures led by a group of truck drivers — known as the “Freedom Convoy” — overtook Canada’s capital city of Ottawa over the weekend. Opposite sides of the U.S. political news media responded with very different coverage and displays of media bias.
One side of the news media (right-wing outlets) consistently framed the movement as righteous, while the other (left-wing outlets) often framed it as dangerous. If you read news inside a filter bubble, you’d come away with very different perceptions of the movement.
What is the Freedom Convoy, and What Is It Protesting?
The 'Freedom Convoy’ is a coalition of truckers in Canada that organized a cross-country drive over the past week in a display of objection to the government’s vaccine requirement for certain workers in the industry. The group arrived in Ottawa Friday, and a weekend of demonstrations and road blockages ensued. According to reports from across the spectrum, what began as a protest of vaccine mandates evolved into a larger airing of grievances against all COVID-19 rules and the actions of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
No arrests or outbreaks of violence were reported at the protests. Ottawa police are reportedly investigating reports of antisemitic displays and vandalism, including the desecration of Canada’s National War Memorial and other public monuments.
Trudeau has been a consistent target of anti-mandate and anti-COVID restriction protests, and recently dubbed the convoy as being representative of a "small fringe minority." Trudeau, who was reportedly moved to a secret location Saturday amid the protests, said Monday that he would not meet with representatives of the convoy.
As of Jan. 22, truckers who cross the Canadian-U.S. border are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The country’s minister of transport said this week that roughly 90% of Canadian truckers crossing the border are already vaccinated; roughly 78% of all Canadians are fully vaccinated.
A convoy spokesman said the convoy was over 43 miles long, and others say over 50,000 truckers participated. The exact length and number of participants are unclear and have been disputed by some left-rated fact-checkers (as you’ll see below); the world record for the longest truck convoy is roughly 4.5 miles. As of Monday, a GoFundMe donation account set up to help the convoy has raised over $9.3 million.
Right-rated sources focused much more on the convoy than left- and center-rated sources, and often framed it as representative of a growing global skepticism of COVID-19 vaccine mandates and public health rules. Reports from left-rated outlets often framed the convoy as careless in the face of continued public health risks and potentially aligned with dangerous far-right political movements.
How Left Media Coverage Showed Bias
- Snopes (Lean Left bias), USA TODAY (Lean Left) and Politifact (Lean Left) analyzed claims about the protest’s size, the number of participants and the number of trucks involved, painting participation as being less enthusiastic than it was portrayed by organizers
- CNN (Left) and others highlighted reports of vandalism and desecration of monuments, including Canada's National War Memorial
- New York Times (Lean Left) drew comparisons between anti-mandate protesters and Jan. 6 Capitol rioters
- Washington Post (Lean Left) and others focused on the high percentage of Canadian truckers who are vaccinated
- The Guardian (Lean Left) and others highlighted how Trudeau said the protesters hold “unacceptable views” and don’t reflect the majority of Canadians.
How Right Media Coverage Showed Bias
- CBN News (Right bias) and others highlighted crowds of people cheering on the truck convoy
- Fox News (Right) and others focused on how convoy organizers banned certain Canadian media outlets from their first press conferences over alleged biases
- TheBlaze (Right) and others highlighted famous people including Joe Rogan and Elon Musk who voiced support for the convoy
- The Daily Wire (Right) and others focused on videos of the protests and framed them as massive
- The Epoch Times (Lean Right) and others highlighted GoFundMe donation efforts for the convoy, framing the movement as having built traction
- ZeroHedge (Lean Right) and others warned of potential supply chain consequences from truckers quitting due to the mandate
Coverage of the Freedom Convoy and the ensuing protest in Ottawa once again displays the need to use multiple news sources. One side consistently framed the movement as dangerous, smaller than believed, and akin to the Capitol riot, while the other side focused on voices of supporters and its purported large size. Either one-sided view would leave you with an incomplete understanding of the convoy, and would likely polarize your perception of the “other side.”
Henry A. Brechter is the Managing Editor of AllSides. He has a Center bias.
This piece was reviewed by Julie Mastrine, Director of Marketing and Media Bias Ratings (Lean Right) and Daily News Editor Joseph Ratliff (Lean Left).