Sunday, October 18, 2009

Planet Fox declares war!

Do you get the idea that a particular topic is drifting toward the top of what we call the "news agenda" over at a certain network known worldwide for its fairness and balancehood?

Right, that's now three days out of the past seven (the image at top right is from this afternoon, with Tuesday and Monday images below it) that Fox's victimization at the hands of the power-hungry Muslim-Marxist cabal at the White House has been at the top of the front page. What seems to be happening is that assorted administration functionaries are pointing out in public that Fox-flavored news is ... well, let's let them explain it themselves:

"A lot of their news programming, it's really not news. It's pushing a point of view," senior adviser David Axelrod said on ABC's "This Week. (Well, yeah.)

"The way we -- the president looks at it and we look at it, is, it is not a news organization so much as it has a perspective," White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel added on CNN's "State of the Union." (A little off target, but ... yeah.)

The open assault on Fox News began last weekend when White House Communications Director Anita Dunn accused the network of being a "wing of the Republican Party."

"What I think is fair to say about Fox -- and certainly it's the way we view it -- is that it really is more a wing of the Republican Party," Dunn said on CNN. "They take their talking points, put them on the air; take their opposition research, put them on the air. And that's fine. But let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is." (A bit overkind to CNN, but ... she has a point.)

Here's how Fox defended itself last week:

Fox News senior vice president Michael Clemente, who likens the channel to a newspaper with separate sections on straight news and commentary, suggested White House officials were intentionally conflating opinion show hosts like Glenn Beck with news reporters like Major Garrett.

"It's astounding the White House cannot distinguish between news and opinion programming," Clemente said.

Today it managed to find an outside source -- the repellent toad Karl Rove -- to say the same thing:

Former Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove said Fox News' commentators have been tough on Obama but the White House appears to be confusing the news and opinion that appears on the network.

"They're conflating the news side and the opinion side in order to -- in order to attack a media outlet. Again, it's undignified for the president of the United States to be doing" Rove said on "Fox News Sunday." He added that it is the administration's practice to attack its critics full-throttle.

"I think this White House is dominated by Chicago- style politics, so if you don't like the questions that are being asked by Major Garrett or Wendell Goler or Chris Wallace, then you try and demonize Fox News," he said.

Nice bank shot: note how he managed to get the Chicago thing in as well? But the important thing is that Rove and the Fox official are both playing sleight-of-hand in the same direction. The problem with Fox News isn't the opinion side; the news side itself is the party organ. Fox isn't just a CNN or Times with a different tone on the editorial page. It's a whole different creature. It does stuff you just don't see real news doing anymore.

Fox doesn't necessarily make stuff up (at least, not often). Fox is more like a crooked cop. It knows the rules; it just has a very well-developed sense of when to look the other way. If the Mail or the Torygraph happens to invent a story that makes the villain of the day look bad, who's going to blame Fox if it doesn't ask the sort of questions that might occur to an inquisitive three-year-old before running the thing as "reports say"?

Nor is Fox uniquely inept with polling data. The Times often does a sloppy job with survey results, partly because the Times doesn't have a very clear grasp of how confidence levels work and partly because it has trouble telling debate from reporting. Both shortcomings are widespread in journalism, and -- as at the Times -- they tend to result in evenly distributed ineptitude. Some days one party benefits from the clueless hed; other days, it's the other guys. At Fox, the errors all seem to run in one direction. After a while, one starts to wonder why.

It's worth remembering, in the course of all this, that powerful, frenetic, shameless, hard-right media outfits aren't exactly new in the U.S. media-politics spectrum. If you keep up with stuff like how your news organizations perform in conflicts and crises (and who doesn't?),* you might be reminded of, oh, a time when fascism actually was on the march and one political party was actually trying to do something about it. Let's close with a sermon from Cissy Patterson of the Washington Times-Herald (and, needless to say, cousin of Chicago's Bertie McCormick), as reported by David Brinkley in his very enjoyable "Washington Goes to War." She's talking about Drew Pearson, Walter Winchell

and other Quislings [who] manage to get paid big money for their treachery. ... This filthy work of plotting, planning, sneaking, lying, spying, cheating, stealing, smearing in the mere HOPE of one day overthrowing our American form of government.

... Yes, they're nutty, all right, these 'liberals' -- for they can't see further ahead than the first frenzied days of plunder, murder, fire, rape and prancing about with pale, fresh-cut human heads on bloody pikes.

Almost makes Glenn Beck sound like a freaking grownup, doesn't it?

* Some major research universities offer special-topics courses in this very subject! Be sure to ask for it by name.



Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

A tale of two marches on Washington....

One took place in the late summer of 1963, the other in the late summer of 2009. One was promoted by a preacher from Georgia named Martin Luther King, the other by a former "shock jock" from the state of Washington named Glenn Beck. Ouch! Even mentioning the two of them in the same paragraph is somehow disconcerting.

In 1963, the the people were singing, We Shall Overcome.

Forty-six years later, the chant was, We Shall Undermine.

In 1963, a vast and varied demographic of the American people - all races and religions - descended on the nation's capitol to peaceably and nonviolently protest an injustice that was occurring in certain areas of the country to people of a certain skin pigmentation.

Forty-six years later, a Convention of Pissed-Off White People - united only by the fact that they were all habitual viewers of a single cable news channel - rolled into Washington to hurl invective at an African American president for creating a mess that he had absolutely nothing to do with creating.

In 1963, the signs people held up were optimistic: "With Liberty and Justice for All."

Forty-six years later, the signs were ominous: "We Came Unarmed - THIS TIME!"

On August 28, 1963, the hearts of people who marched on the city of Washington DC were filled with love and hope.

On September 12, 2009 they were just full of shit.

Let us boil the comparisons down to their juicy essentials, shall we? Martin Luther King had a dream. Glenn Beck has a scheme.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

7:15 AM, October 19, 2009  
Anonymous raYb said...

Interesting, your note about how the Times gets it wrong for everybody and Fox just does it wrong for one side. Is that because Fox is run by more intelligent people than the Times? How do they know to get it wrong for the "left" people and right for "right" people.

7:33 PM, October 19, 2009  
Blogger fev said...

It's not as hard as it looks. The Times is looking for stuff that sets off traditional journalistic buzzers: change, conflict, that sort of stuff. Fox looks for stuff that makes one side look bad and the other side look good. In both cases, they're not especially well equipped to tell good stats from bad. Because "change" is +/- evenly distributed, the Times's errors are likely to be similarly distributed.

Fox doesn't know to get it wrong for the left. It doesn't have to if the results do that anyway. It only has to err if the results conflict with preferred reality.

Does that make any sense? It started out that way ...

12:18 AM, October 20, 2009  

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