I’ve long assumed that just about anything written by a journalist has only the most tenuous relationship to reality (see Michael Crichton’s “Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect”).

Few news agencies are as skilled at the AP, however, at crafting headlines–often the only part of a story a casual reader notes–that communicate a narrative that’s precisely the opposite of the underlying facts.

As one example, here’s a prevaricating AP headline from October 22, 2014:

AP Isreali man shoots Palestinian

In that case the actual facts turned out to be that the man shot was engaged in a terrorist attack on a bus stop, and had already managed to kill a 3-year-old before being engaged and stopped by Israeli police.  Replace the word”man” with “terrorist” and the headline would have accurately narrated the events.  Instead, the headline falsely implies an act of unjustified violence by Israeli authorities.  (In that case the AP withdrew the headline an hour in the face of considerable outrage.)

Here’s another favorite example, this one from 2007 in an AP piece covering the Iraq war (h/t Hotair.com):

US Iraq troops clash in Baghdad 2007

Wow, how awful–we send our troops to go fight for the Iraqi people, and our military ends up clashing with the Iraqi troops?  Uh, no. The actual story discloses that US troops and Iraqi troops, far from clashing with each other, were fighting together against insurgents.

This most recent example of AP prevarication that caught my eye was brought to my attention by the Rush Limbaugh show, and is perhaps the best example of AP prevarication I’ve seen in quite some time.

Arkansas officers shoot cuffed man

Technically, that’s true as far as it goes. That’s what makes the AP headline a prevarication rather than an outright lie.  They simply chose to craft the headline to reflect only the portion of the narrative they wished to advance.

What they left out, of course, was why the police shot him.

A: Because he had begun shooting at them.

Somehow, this arrested suspect managed to get his hands in front of him and access a compact handgun. When the police came back to the patrol car he opened fire on them, prompting them to (perfectly appropriately) return defensive fire.

The suspect is reported to now be in stable condition (meaning morgue temperature).

How difficult would it have been for the AP to craft a headline that accurately reflected those facts?

How about: “Official: Police successfully defend against armed suspect”?

So, not all that difficult.

Of course my proposed headline would merely have communicated the essential facts of the story, and would not have advanced the Social Justice Warrior rage-narrative du jour.

And that would appear to be the AP’s actual day job.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


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Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.