Bias is present in a significant amount of modern news coverage as society has become increasingly polarized on a variety of socio-political issues. In the context of increasing LGBTQ activism and recognition, transgenderism faces the greatest controversy and public backlash. Transgender individuals refer to people who either identify or express with a different gender than the one assigned at birth.
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The public debate centers around either acceptance and support of transgender people (liberal perspective) or denying it as a concept by declaring it unnatural, immoral, or biologically impossible (conservative viewpoint). In an investigation of online news publications, it is evident that both sides attempt to utilize emotional appeal in justifying their respective perspectives, and often rely on personal attacks and interpretations of sociology and science in building their case, both in reporter and reader bias.
The right article is by Joseph Brean of the National Post describing the backlash and abuse that Meghan Murphy, a feminist journalist and public speaker, faces in light of her stance on transgender ideology as being inherently anti-female and her planned lecture at a public library leading to condemnation from supporters of the LGBTQ community (Brean).
Online research on the news organization National Post which is based in Canada found it to be leaning right-center with a moderately conservative approach, but it scores high on factual reporting according to the website (“National Post”). Meanwhile, Brean is a relatively recognized conservative reporter who has been with National Post for more than a decade, with an internet search for the author finding him to be based on a number of issues with one website declaring his “unfair” coverage of mental health being the worst back in 2010 (Oaks).
At first, the article establishes Murphy as a credible figure, a journalist who has taken on a variety of feminist topics with much recognition. However, when opposing transgender acceptance, she is facing everything from boycotts to direct threats to safety. The reporter is establishing an emotional bias in this context, which he builds upon when he describes how pride supporters are addressing Murphy’s stance by highlighting quote words such as “disappointed, consequences, betrayal” (Brean).
The reporter then builds the case based on Murphy’s stance suggesting that transgenderism is biologically impossible, and it is a violation of woman’s rights. The issue is framed in a way that it references science in regard to biology, and an aspect of human rights that is in direct opposition to LGBTQ groups that also state that their rights are violated by not allowing for the legalization of transgenderism. It is a common tactic among conservative groups to utilize scientific references to support their point, but liberal groups often condemn this as a cherry-picked and fallacious approach to the dehumanization of trans individuals (Sun).
Reader commentaries largely agree with the article and Murphy’s perspective, suggesting that without clear definitions of genders, it is dangerous to assume anything, as well as emphasizing the hypocrisy and double standards of Pride supporters in regard to a tolerance of opinions. This article bias could impact the discussion on the issue by presenting transgenderism as a topic focused on individuals lacking experience in the LGBTQ community and stating beliefs with the little scientific or social foundation to base their facts upon, which highly distorts objectivity and resorts to emotional condemnation.
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An article by Gillian Branstetter in Newsweek is an opinion piece that discusses the opposition on the issue of transgenderism in society and policy. It suggests that the concept is becoming mainstream in public view with the support of various medical and mental health organizations as well as other support, which is leading anti-trans groups to become aggressive in their stance (Branstetter). Newsweek has been identified as a strongly leftist liberal news source, associated with emotional influence on its audience and mixed record in factual reporting (“Newsweek”). Branstetter is a media relations manager at a Transgender Equality organization and commonly writes articles and opinion pieces on the topic in support of the transgender movement, which may indicate strong bias (“Gillian Branstetter”).
Factually, the article seems to be correct by indicating overwhelming support for the issue from court cases, scientific and medical communities, and human rights organizations. Branstetter furthermore accurately highlights the opposition arguments, some of which were seen in the right-wing article. While being an opinion piece, the article uses highly emotional appeal by portraying transgenders as victims of prosecution, having to face court battles, and societal pressure to fight for their rights. Furthermore, Branstetter demonstrates report bias by directly attacking the opposing side through aggressive language such as, “cast of reactionaries, fundamentalist zealots and conversion therapy hucksters” (Branstetter).
The title of the article suggests that the opposition on the issue is a “battle royal” – a deadly fight for survival. It has a double-edged meaning as the author is both implying that conservative groups are running out of arguments while also suggesting that the discrimination against transgenders can be deadly and is “rooted in complete rejection our existence” (Branstetter). Although emotionally charged, her claims are relatively true as the anti-trans campaign has gotten increasingly violent both on social media and in real life, leading to an 81% increase in attacks.
Conservative channels are using highly inappropriate and repulsive language in relation to sex-change surgery that many transgenders choose to undergo (Fairchild). Readers in the commentary under the article largely agree with this notion of fear-mongering and highly aggressive stance. However, a debate erupted as well suggesting that the article itself is an aspect of liberal propaganda and that political correctness is being chosen over objective truth and science.
This type of language and approach can have severe repercussions socially, as discussions on the issue are being turned into attacks on the beliefs of the other group. Meanwhile, each side is utilizing a more aggressive stance such as correlating transgenderism to completely unrelated concepts or focusing on forcing acceptance towards those individuals that may not recognize or, worse, not understand the issue. That is dangerous on its own and creates even greater polarization and anger in society.
Both liberal and conservative news sources utilize emotional appeal and attacks against the opposition in coverage of transgenderism while relying on respective interpretations of scientific and social aspects regarding the issue.
The polarization of the issue finds reporting on the topic highly biased and often framed for readers to sympathize with the viewpoint each article supports. This approach to reporting bias from both sides on the issue is highly derogatory in an objective and peaceful discussion to promote a level of agreement and compromise. The context around transgenderism will continue to remain tense and volatile, resulting in everything ranging from boycotts to violence. This is unfortunate as the reporting bias fuels it as demonstrated by evident reader bias, and neither socio-political part of the population is attempting to find a solution in terms of policy or discourse.
Brean, Joseph. “Meghan Murphy, The Woman Behind Trans Wars Breaking Out at The Public Library.” National Post. 2019. Web.
Branstetter, Gillian. “Anti-Transgender Activists Are Suiting Up for What They Believe Is Their Battle Royal | Opinion.” Newsweek. 2019. Web.
Fairchild, Phalen. ” Here’s Why Hate Crimes Against Transgender People Spiked 81%.” Medium. 2019. Web.
“Gillian Branstetter.” Transgender Equality, n.d. Web.
“National Post.” Media Bias/Fact Check, n.d. Web.
“Newsweek.” Media Bias/Fact Check, n.d. Web.
Oaks, David. “Worst Mental Health Media Of 2010: Canada’s National Post Biased Articles by Joseph Brean.” MFI. 2010. Web.
Sun, Simon D. ” Stop Using Phony Science to Justify Transphobia.” Scientific American. 2019. Web.
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