Political video presented as straight news on NowThis

October 21, 2022

By Tim Worstall

NowThis News ran a plainly political video in an election cycle while presenting it as a piece of news. It doesn’t break the law on election advertising, but that’s because it has been deliberately edited in order not to do so. We should, therefore, call it propaganda rather than party political advertising.

The subject under discussion is historical carbon emissions, but it’s after they’ve detailed those that the bias becomes apparent. Once they’ve laid out who emitted what, we are told that “The transformative provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act” and all that work on clean energy and environmental justice.

One thought might be that we thought that was all about reducing inflation, given the name of the Act, but clearly not. The other observation is that this is something that was passed upon entirely party lines. It’s entirely and wholly a Democratic law. Well, OK, but then the video goes on to say that “There are 36 gubernatorial races alone this year. In addition to the countless other state and local offices up for grabs.” 

You see how this works? Explanation of point, possibly problem, description of party political attempted solution, note we’re in election period and……this is an election address, as the British put it. A call out to the voters to vote a particular way.

It doesn’t get called that in U.S. electoral law though. For it to be part of an election campaign it must actually say vote for someone. Whoever it is, a candidate, or at least a party ticket, must be named. It isn’t. So, it’s just the right side of the law on elections – and clearly the other side of it in propaganda terms. For there’s no doubt who the video is saying everyone should vote for. You know, those who would reduce inflation through environmental justice. Whether that actually works or not, whether it’s needed or not.

Now, if this were to be created by a political party that would be, about, acceptable. They are obeying the law, it is an election and everyone does want to gain votes. It would also just about pass muster from a Super PAC or some other such political organization. But from the stamps on it, this appears to be an actual production of NowThis News. 

NowThis News’ YouTube channel, which this comes from, has 2.3 million subscribers. That makes it an important outlet.

Running political propaganda as a news piece, NowThis – and anyone else – should know better. Actually creating it in-house is bias pure and simple. Even if it doesn’t break election law. What we have a right to expect is more than merely obeying the law, after all.


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