Concealed partiality in the 'quality press' - The seemingly objective newspaper report

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By: C.C.

This article purports to show that journalists working in Holland for what is traditionally called the 'quality press' are given the freedom by their employers to present hidden commentary as neutral news coverage. How is such bias expressed in newspapers that are usually regarded as objective vehicles for communicating developments in society? We find it in reports that are constructed within an objective framework, while being subtly enriched by well thought-out passages expressing, in a cloaked manner, the sentiments of the author - or those of the author's employer. I will focus on one newspaper report; one of hundreds of reports that seem perfectly objective when read by Joe Average, while manipulating him by means of mechanisms such as selectivity, one-sidedness and insinuation. I've chosen a report from Trouw ('Fidelity'), one of the large, daily 'quality papers' in Holland. The report appeared on Thursday, July 13, 2000, under the heading 'Frank van Ree: Child porno not concealed'. I will translate the excerpts from this newspaper report as accurately as possible, so as not to disturb their 'character', 'feel' or 'essence'. It should be noted that in Dutch, child pornography ('kinderpornografie') is almost always abbreviated to child porno ('kinderporno'), so I will stick to that abbreviation. Frank van Ree is a psychiatrist who speaks positively of pedophilia and who has been a committee member in both foundations discussed in the next paragraph.

The report is about (claims to be about) the recent agitation regarding the child porno collections of the Brongersma Foundation and the Bernard Foundation. Both foundations have been around for many years; the first was founded by dr. Edward Brongersma, the politician and advocate of pedophilia who died in 1998, while the second was founded by dr. Frits Bernard, an author and advocate of pedophilia who is now eighty and a regular contributor to OK magazine. Both foundations have as one of their goals the advancement of scientific research into issues of child sexuality and pedophilia. The recent developments concerning these foundations have handed Trouw a motive to create their report and present it in the paper. The coverage of the developments forms the objective framework of the report. Now it's up to the author to slip in those subjective allusions and passages - unnoticed by Joe Average - that will 'color' the report.

Trouw leads off: 'Frits Bernard never kept the child porno in his collection a secret,' says former committee member Frank van Ree. Prof. E. Hirsch Ballin [former minister of Justice - CC] thinks a sign on the door saying 'science' should not suffice to validate the possession of illegal material.' So far, so good. 'While yesterday psychiatrist Van Ree told Trouw that he did not know the collections of the Bernard Foundation and the Brongersma Foundation, he declares in NRC Handelsblad [another major paper - CC]: "Bernard and Brongersma have never kept silent about the child porno in their collections."' Here it is implied that Van Ree would have lied to Trouw. From the context of the sentence, it can be established that Trouw holds 'did not know' to mean 'was unaware of the existence of child porn in the collections'. In Wednesday's article in Trouw it doesn't say that Van Ree would not know the collections (ah, but who would check this in an old paper?); it only says he has never seen the collections. One does not have to see something with his own eyes in order to know about it, and Van Ree has merely denied any close involvement with the foundations. If he had declared not to know about the existence of child porno in the collections, this would have been printed in boldface in Wednesday's report.

For Trouw, Van Ree's 'lie' is deserving of retaliation; retaliation in the shape of a meaningless but effective innuendo. This type of allusion would be expected to be found only in tabloids: 'It now also turns out that Van Ree is married to Bernard's sister.' Right. So? By reading this sentence, Joe Average is made to think of the concept of the 'criminal network'. Trouw does not mention any networks, at least not directly: after all, Trouw is the innocent vehicle for objective news coverage. Trouw simply remarks - there's no harm in it - that so-and-so is married to so-and-so's sister.

Trouw goes on to mention a number of past child porno affairs where the scientific motive to justify possession was under attack. Former minister Hirsch Ballin puts in his two cents' worth, saying the possession of child porno should only be allowed when it's 'evident' that it serves a good purpose, and when this has been 'established'. Apart from science, Hirsch Ballin holds 'therapy' and 'education' to be good purposes. I was never shown a sex film or booklet during my education, but anyway. These parts of the report are sufficiently relevant (the subject, after all, is the child porno collection of the Bernard Foundation and the Brongersma Foundation, and mentioning similar attacks on similar collections is relevant), and they are brought objectively by Trouw. Alas, not so for the closing paragraph. In this subjective paragraph, the mechanism of one-sidedness is put to use. Trouw quotes an opponent of pedosexuality, professor of psychotraumatology W. Wolters, on his views concerning the Bernard Foundation and the Brongersma Foundation, but not only on these views that are relevant to the subject matter. As an expert, W. Wolters is given space to declare something which is presented as being 'abundantly clear'; namely, how 'evident' it is that sexual contacts with adults harm children. For those who recognize mechanisms, the undisputable opinion of W. Wolters provides the biased touch to the seemingly neutral report. The opinion stands on itself and has no relevance whatsoever in connection with the coverage of the Bernard Foundation and the Brongersma Foundation. Trouw depicts Wolters as a man who is driven by his intellect and abhors the hysteria among the common people. Trouw: 'W. Wolters, a professor of psychotraumatology, completely disavows the 'frightening witch hunt aimed at pedophiles', but he says one thing is beyond a doubt: sex with adults is bad for children.' The reader heaves a sigh of relief. Phew: the professional expert Wolters, who resents the blind hatred in the common people, has shown that one does not have to share that blind hate in order to shatter any belief in the benevolence of sex with children: this can be done in a scientifically correct manner, with expertise, with intellect. W. Wolters hangs a sign on his door saying 'science'. By the way, W. Wolters's sister is married to so-and-so. Right, so the science of psychotraumatology shows us that 'sex with adults is bad for children'. What is 'sex'? Who do we regard as 'children'? Preteenagers, or anyone under eighteen? The people go for the latter: Korthals and the rest of the political crew go for the latter. (Current minister of Justice Korthals has submitted a proposal for new legislation declaring all under eighteen to be 'children', criminalizing all sexual activity with those under sixteen, and criminalizing all pornography involving those under eighteen.) The incredible generalization that is W. Wolters's statement is presented and accepted as being 'evident'. Let me be equally pointless and state that 'sex with adults is good for children'. A nonsensical generalization is a nonsensical generalization. But Trouw is satisfied publishing W. Wolters's generalization, and this in an article that does not have 'the results of sex between children and adults' for a subject. Trouw has found a channel to express its bias and Joe Average has been manipulated.

Though they are presented as being self-evident, W. Wolters is given space to make more statements: "Bernard's ideas are completely outdated. Nonsense, including the argument that children themselves want sex. This is because children involved in pedosexual relations are usually from such backgrounds as to lack emotionally and affectionately. Pedosexuals use such children's need for affection as an argument." Bernard's ideas are completely outdated? Have they ever stood a fair chance? W. Wolters makes it seem like there has been some period when our ideas were allowed to be studied objectively and openly. Children involved in pedosexual relations are 'usually' from such backgrounds as to lack emotionally and affectionately? I wouldn't be amazed, as by far most children in this paranoid, politically correct society lack drastically in loving and affectionate upbringing. Leave it to the threat of social and legal persecution. Who would dare to come within a ten-kilometer range of those under eighteen ('children' all, or 'victims') without heeding the risk of being apprehended and locked up or treated by proxy of the legislation of Korthals? 'Children' don't want sex? Let Sandfort or whoever prove, through testimonies of children, that this generalization is untenable, and society turns upon him, for instance by depicting a 'network of pseudoscientists', or by hushing up scientific research (in what newspaper appearing by the end of '98 could Joe Average find objective coverage of the conclusions of American researchers Bauserman, Rind and Tromovitch, which were presented at a Dutch study conference?).

W. Wolters implies - and Trouw is quick to believe him - that we, pedophiles, are all fitted with a radar that tracks children who lack an affectionate upbringing, so we can take advantage of those children - by having 'sex' with them of course. And 'sex' (undefined) is bad for young chaps. Somebody should harm W. Wolters by having sex with him. The report in Trouw concludes with W. Wolters's statement that Frits Bernard is a kind man. This is to clear W. Wolters of any charge of personal resentment towards pedophiles. And with this type of coverage, Trouw willingly adds to the perpetual flow of partial newspaper reports playing on people's emotions, while trying to keep the blazon of the 'quality paper' unblemished.

source: Article 'Concealed Partiality in the 'Quality Press' - The Seemingly Objective Newspaper Report' by C.C.; Translated from Dutch; OK Magazine, no. 74; August 2000