How yellow journalism starts wars

Here’s the headline on CNN:

“‘Move back those troops,’ President Obama tells Russia’s president about forces near Ukraine’s border.”

Here’s what Obama actually said:

“And, in either case, what we need right now to resolve and deescalate the situation would be for Russia to move back those troops and to begin negotiations directly with the Ukrainian government as well as the international community.”

In politics perception is everything. If Putin’s constituency, or even those able to influence that constituency, perceive the implied threat in the headline as having been uttered by Obama, it does not matter that Putin knows it wasn’t, he’ll have to respond as if it had. CNN’s desperate attempt to bolster flagging ratings has now reduced the likelihood of a deescalation of tensions, which by definition increases the odds of war.