A pregnant Michelle Williams spent her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes on Sunday making an argument for abortion. (For a thorough dismantling of the speech, read The Federalist’s Joy Pullmann: “No, Michelle Williams, Women Don’t Need To Kill Their Kids To Get Ahead.”) As an experiment, I googled “Michelle Williams powerful,” and filtered the search for the past 24 hours to see how many media outlets cheered her on in the same sympathetic language. The results were absurd.
From CNN to People to Yahoo to Vanity Fair, at least twelve major outlets used some variation of the word “powerful” in their headlines about the speech. Take a look at the list, it’s stunning to see the banners one after another. The visual is a remarkably embarrassing representation of media groupthink. Note most of the publications below (with one or two exceptions) don’t openly claim an ideological bias.
CNN: Read Michelle Williams’ powerful speech about choice
E News: Michelle Williams Delivers Powerful Speech About Women’s Rights at the 2020 Golden Globes
People: Michelle Williams Powerfully Champions ‘a Woman’s Right to Choose’ in Golden Globes Speech
Access Hollywood: Michelle Williams Delivers Powerful Women’s Rights Speech At Golden Globes Amid Pregnancy Reports
Vanity Fair: Michelle Williams Delivers Powerful Golden Globe Speech About Women’s Rights
Us Weekly: Michelle Williams Talks Women’s Rights, Shouts Out Daughter and New Fiance During Powerful Golden Globes Speech
InStyle: Michelle Williams’s Powerful Golden Globes Speech Left People in Tears
Marie Claire: Michelle Williams’ Powerful Golden Globes Speech Urges Women to Vote This Year
Yahoo: Michelle Williams called an ‘icon’ after powerful speech about women’s rights at Golden Globes
OK!: Pregnant Michelle Williams Hints At Past Abortion In Powerful Speech
The Hollywood Reporter: Michelle Williams Delivers Empowering Acceptance Speech on Women’s Rights at Golden Globes
Slate: Michelle Williams’ Surprisingly Personal Speech About Abortion Was the Golden Globes’ Most Powerful Moment
Mashable: Michelle Williams delivers powerful speech at Golden Globes about abortion rights
But there’s more. There were the headlines that called Williams’s speech “passionate,” (Time, ET, Refinery29) “moving,” and “emotional.” Harper’s Bazaar deemed it “rousing.” The Associated Press headline, which was reprinted by several other top outlets, claimed Williams “[spoke] for women’s rights.” NBC News said she “champion[ed] a women’s right to choose.” (As did People.)
Time: Michelle Williams Makes a Passionate Plea for Abortion Rights in Golden Globes Acceptance Speech
ET: Michelle Williams Gives Passionate Pro-Choice Speech During Golden Globes Best Actress in Limited Series Win
Refinery 29: Michelle Williams Celebrates A Woman’s Right To Choose In Passionate Golden Globes Speech
TV Guide: Michelle Williams Gives Moving Pro-Choice Speech at Golden Globes
Uproxx: Michelle Williams Delivered A Moving Speech About Women’s Rights At The Golden Globes
Decider: Michelle Williams Delivered An Emotional, Pro-Choice Speech at the Golden Globes
AP: Williams speaks for women’s rights from Golden Globes stage (republished by Washington Post, US News, Washington Times)
Elle: Michelle Williams Uses Her Golden Globes Acceptance Speech To Defend A Woman’s Right To Choose
NBC News: Michelle Williams champions ‘a woman’s right to choose’ in Golden Globes acceptance speech
Harper’s Bazaar: Michelle Williams Dedicated Her Rousing Golden Globes Speech to the Power of Women’s Choice
Vulture: Michelle Williams Says Thanks for the Globe, But Let’s Talk Women’s Reproductive Rights, People
The Guardian: Why Michelle Williams is the real winner of this year’s Golden Globes
On ABC’s “The View” Monday morning, host Abby Huntsman praised Williams’ speech, dubbing it “lovely” and “moving.” And of course Sunny Hostin chimed in with, “It was a powerful moment.”
RICKY GERVAIS RIPS HOLLYWOOD AT GOLDEN GLOBES: The co-hosts discuss stand out moments from last night's #GoldenGlobes. https://t.co/cVclFZQmjA pic.twitter.com/rdouvE3gst
— The View (@TheView) January 6, 2020
The bias is as obvious as the groupthink. Remember, this is only a list of headlines. When I dug into the articles, they largely echoed their headlines’ bias. Further, plenty of bad coverage isn’t even included in this list because it came not in the headlines, but the content.
This is an indictment of the coastal media’s hive mind that should humiliate serious journalists on behalf of their industry. Readers deserve much better coverage than the spate of rote, you-go-girl dreck dozens of outlets magically produced in unison.
There are, of course, only so many words to describe certain circumstances. In this case, “powerful” is only one of them if you come from a particular perspective. Technically, of course, a pro-life person could find the speech “powerful” for different reasons, rendering the descriptor neutral—but then again, that’s exactly why the media uses it. I don’t think anyone serious is naive enough to give them the benefit of the doubt.
What’s particularly important to note is that both news outlets and tabloids landed on the same sympathetic messaging. Those are genres of journalism with two different readerships, so the effect is to reach an enormously broad audience with the very same biased narrative.
This is a memorable and instructive case study in the formation of media narratives. Bias is not just CNN. It’s not even just the news media. It’s the entire machine. And, to borrow a word, it’s powerful.