Another Egregious Headline From Breitbart

choose-wellI frequently notice the difference between New Zealand media and the media in the United States. There’s plenty of lying for Jesus here, but the media is largely free of it. On the whole, our media don’t deliberately lie to push a certain point of view. We’re lucky to have a media that is largely genuinely fair and balanced. We don’t have outlets like Fox News, MSNBC, Breitbart, or the Huffington Post.

Thus, I am often struck by how outrageous some of the things I see in US media are. A few days ago another story attracted my attention. It isn’t a biggie, but someone has to speak up for the atheists and minority (in the United States) religious!

It’s from Breitbart on 16 December:




I’m sure most of you would immediately question at least the accuracy of a headline like this. Many would wonder at its veracity too, and you’d be right to do so. However, I bet most of Breitbart’s target audience accepted it at face value. The headline though is misleading, pure and simple, and it’s obviously deliberate. That makes it a lie.

And all in all, it’s a pretty pathetic one too.

The lie is especially egregious because Breitbart insists their story is a correction of one in the New York Times that’s biased against US Christians. There’s nothing like a bit of victim-hood to get a good right-winger going. In that, they’re no different from those on the far left despite their insistence otherwise. I guess it’s all about who’s doing the judging.

The story in the New York Times, ‘Christians in U.S. Are Less Educated Than Religious Minorities, Report Says’ is, in fact, an extremely fair and accurate summary of the Pew report.

Breibart‘s “Facts”

education-by-religion-2016To start with, let’s get the facts. Breitbart provides this graphic (right) from the Pew Research Center report. A good graph from a reputable source is always useful in bolstering your case, after all. Except this one doesn’t. You will have already noticed that what Breitbart refers to as “atheists”, Pew refers to as “unaffiliated”. They’re not the same thing, but how many of Breitbart‘s readers will notice that, especially those for whom it bolsters a worldview?

A person who is “unaffiliated” may believe in God, just not be a regular church-goer. That’s not the same as coming to the conscious realization that there is no God, gods, or any other supernatural entities. That there’s “… no hell below us, above us only sky,” so to speak. (John Lennon, Imagine.)

Breitbart writes (my emphasis):

A new study by the Pew Research Center found that worldwide, Jews have the most years of formal education, followed by Christians, with atheists, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus trailing behind.

It actually looks to me like everyone is “trailing behind” Jews. Further, the bar for “Unaffiliated” is closer to the one for “Christians” than the one for Buddhists. Hardly “trailing behind”.

Breitbart notes that Jews are way ahead of all other religions. They repeat Pew’s explanation for the phenomenon: most Jews live in the United States or Israel – “two especially developed countries with high levels of education.” They conveniently stop there.

The Facts from the Pew Report

This is the full comment from Pew:

These gaps in educational attainment are partly a function of where religious groups are concentrated throughout the world. For instance, the vast majority of the world’s Jews live in the United States and Israel – two economically developed countries with high levels of education overall. And low levels of attainment among Hindus reflect the fact that 98% of Hindu adults live in the developing countries of India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

higher-ed-us-2016Breitbart used the graph above that applies to the whole survey, conducted in 155 countries. It would have been more honest to use the one to the right. It shows the truth: that in the US all religious groups are better educated than Christians.

The Pew report points out that for Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists, this is likely the result of immigration policies that selects immigrants based on the needs of the country. Thus, while most Hindus worldwide are poorly educated, those who qualify to immigrate to the US are well educated.

Breitbart thus deliberately used a graph that would give their readers a reason to look down on their fellow countrymen in other religions if they were so inclined.

Of course looking down on someone because they’re less educated than you are is a pretty revolting way to behave. I was taught as a child that it wasn’t the Christian way to behave. Now, as an atheist, I believe it’s not a human way to behave.

The tenor of the Breitbart post is that Christians and Jews are better than everyone else. They use words like “accomplishments” to describe the education of Christians. The call the US “especially” developed rather than “economically” developed. Further, they make a point of singling out negative comments about Muslim educational attainment, but provide little or no explanation.

Pew on Atheists’ Education Level

As reported in the story referred to by Breitbart, the lead researcher for the report from Pew, Conrad Hackett, told the New York Times:

The higher the level of education in a country, the larger the share of people with no religion tends to be. Atheists and agnostics, or people with no religion in particular, have higher education levels than the religiously affiliated do in the U.S.

In other words, Breitbart lied. The went out of their way to elevate the perception that US Christians are more highly educated than all other religious groups in their country except Jews.

This seems to me to be a deliberate attempt to elevate themselves above those of most other religions. In the eyes of the religious far right Jews are okay of course because they will become Christians when Jesus returns.

To me, this is part of the constant attempt in parts of the right to normalize bigotry since the election of Donald Trump. It disgusts me.



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14 Responses to “Another Egregious Headline From Breitbart”

  1. Ken says:

    Breitbart “News”, spreading bigotry and lies since 2007.

  2. rickflick says:

    I’m glad you brought this to my attention. I had only seen the Pew graph of US educational levels. It generally confirmed my expectation. The graph reproduced by Breitbart is very likely to be interpreted by many as the state of the matter within the US. Clearly misleading and clearly intentional. Yes, a lie.

    I think most of us can agree that a pattern has become clear about D. Trump and his circle of friends. About what they think of the truth. It’s ominous because the US and the world is going to have to go to bed every night knowing that the Donald and his cronies are standing watch. It’s frightening.

    • A few days ago I started writing a post about all the major trouble spots in the world and how many of them are likely to deteriorate with Trump in the most powerful job in the world. It was pretty depressing to write and I’m not going to get it finished before the holidays. There’s so much there, and it will still be there in the New Year and not looking any less ominous. There are cartoons of generals holding Trump back from the Big Red Button. But one of those generals is going to be Michael Flynn. So yes, frightening.

  3. rickflick says:

    “If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to ask is something true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we are up for grabs by the next charlatan, political or religious, that comes ambling along.”

    Carl Sagan in an interview with Charley Rose 17 years ago.

    Sagan was worried that people were out of touch with the science that is the foundation of our civilization. The last US election in a way confirmed his fears by electing someone despite his contempt for truth. Indirectly, this means the electorate is also contemptuous of the truth. With all the power of science to save us or destroy us, how can a democracy survive in a state of ignorance?

    • j.a.m. says:

      It must take an extraordinary degree of conviction to believe that everyone whose opinions differ is an ignorant disgusting bigoted liar.

      After eight years of stagnation and incompetence, the electorate made a rational choice for change. At this point, the next four years look more promising than the last eight. It’s no time to make oneself miserable.

      • rickflick says:

        Look. There goes one now.

        • Just what I was thinking.

          J.a.m. whatever you think of his policies, it is a matter of record that Trump lied significantly more than any other politician during the election. In fact, fact checkers have him lying more than any other politician since they started fact checking using formal systems. For example, Trump repeated lies over and over again that he never said something, journalists produced recordings of him saying it, and he continued to lie in the face of the evidence. He then called the journalists the “lying dishonest media” as his supporters cheered him on. His denial he ever supported the Iraq war is a classic example.

          This is still happening. He seems to have a policy of undermining the media to make a large portion of the population believe him in the face of the facts.

          Despite what many Republicans believe, there has not been stagnation under Obama. The NASDAQ etc are at record highs, unemployment is at a record low and is one of the lowest in the world. International indices have the US as one of the better places to do business. The only countries doing better economically are small ones like Singapore and New Zealand. This is remarkable given that some of the US’s major trading partners like the EU are still economically weak.

          You feel hopeful because you like Trump’s policies. Many don’t share that hope, and many are already suffering because a minority see a Trump victory as an excuse to let loose with revolting examples of violence and bigotry. Which side is correct long-term remains to be seen.

          My own analysis of Trump’s policies is they will not bring what he promises as they rely heavily on the discredited theory of trickle-down economics.

          • rickflick says:

            In the long term, Obama’s greatest contribution(among many) was his steadfast support for actions to stabilize the economy after the collapse in 2007-8, without which we likely would be still in a serious depression.

  4. j.a.m. says:

    Truth is not data – much less the junk statistics Pew churns out. Even if you were to work out all the methodological difficulties in surveying diverse cultures across 155 nation-states, you’d still be left with nothing but random correlations whose significance is wholly in the eye if the beholder.

    • Ann German says:

      “Truth is not data????” I do not understand that. And I suspect that no argument that you could make would convince me that that makes sense. I am so tired (and, frankly, scared) of people simply “declaring” something as if it were true, and then compounding the error by relying on that declaration in support of some argument. I am thinking of paying for an advertisement in my local newspaper in support of the premise that yes, there are FACTS which are TRUE and they can be referred to as DATA. On another note, Breitbart is in hot water over Milo Yiannopoulos so I’m hoping it undermines its credibility a bit.

  5. Lee Knuth says:

    Breitbart is manipulating the news to keep Trump supporters believing they were right to vote for him. Unfortunately, we all have to live under his administration for the next 4 years.

  6. rickflick says:

    On another topic. This is something I think you will be interested in Heather.

    P.S. Do you have an email for submitting things like this?

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