The Media Very Rarely Lies – by Scott Alexander:

Suppose Infowars claimed that police shootings in the US cannot be racially motivated, because police shoot slightly more white people each year than black people (this is true). This is missing important context: there are ~5x as many white people in the US as black people, so police shooting only slightly more white people suggests that police are shooting black people at ~5x higher rates. But I claim it’s also a failure of contextualization when NYT claims police shootings must be racially motivated because they happen to black people at a 5x higher rate, without adding the context that police are called to black neighborhoods at about a 5x higher rate and so have no more likelihood per encounter of shooting a black person than a white person. Perhaps the failure to add context is an honest mistake, perhaps a devious plot to manipulate the populace — but the two cases stand or fall together with each other, and with other failures of contextualization like Infowars’ vaccine adverse response data.

But lots of people seem to think that Infowars deserves to be censored for asserting lots of things like their context-sparse vaccine data claim, but NYT doesn’t deserve to be censored for asserting lots of things like their context-sparse police shooting claim. I don’t see a huge difference in the level of deceptiveness here. Maybe you disagree and do think that one is worse than the other. But I would argue this is honest disagreement — exactly the sort of disagreement that needs to be resolved by the marketplace of ideas, rather than by there being some easy objective definition of “enough context” which a censor can interpret mechanically in some fair, value-neutral way. 

I think the difference between Infowars and The New York Times is fairly clear. Because Infowars only covers issues that its editors and readers are exercised about, its stories are reliably dishonest. By contrast, the Times covers a much broader range of stories. When those stories don’t touch on the deep prejudices of the newspaper’s staff and readers, then they can usually be trusted; but on the hot-button issues, the Times is no more trustworthy than Infowars.