Saturday, July 27, 2013

Friday framing Foxtacular

Here are two stories from the same spot on the Fox homepage (first story on the left below the lede), about three hours apart Friday morning. What do you suppose they might have to stay to each other?

The one on the left falls under a pretty familiar master frame. The hed ("Nothing better to do?") is unusually intrusive, but the substance is up-the-middle Fox: Look at what happens when those silly libruls* are turned loose to run things:

Detroit's City Council has come under fire for spending time this week writing, voting and passing a resolution supporting a federal investigation into George Zimmerman instead of focusing on its own financial blunders and ballooning crime rate.

Yeah, the vote in question was on Tuesday, and the genuinely dangerous blunders don't belong to this edition of the council, and Fox's coverage of the bankruptcy process in general has veered between clueless and flagrantly dishonest,** but still -- LIBRULS!!1!!11!!!

The second one is a different master frame. If you're scoring along at home, "Stirewalt" isn't a headline; it's the name of the guy whose job it is to determine whether any particular development means FOUR LEGS GOOD or TWO LEGS BAD, and he's found him a story:

It may come as some unwelcome news to the families of the nearly 60,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam War that the whole thing was just a misunderstanding.

Getting the picture? This one's about how the feckless Kenyan usurper is desecrating everything real Americans hold dear:

That was the impression President Obama gave on Thursday when he spoke to the press after his meeting with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang. Sang brought Obama a copy of a letter sent to President Harry Truman from Ho Chi Minh in which the communist dictator spoke hopefully of cooperation with the United States.

No doubt there are some folks -- I think we call them "babbling psychotic hacks" -- to whom that impression was given. But let's proceed:

Obama, striking a wistful tone, observed that it may have taken 67 years, but the United States and Vietnam were finally enjoying the relationship that Ho once wrote of. After all, Obama said, Ho had been “inspired by the words of Thomas Jefferson.”

The message here was that if only we might have bridged our differences then – if only Ho and Truman could have done what Obama and Sang did this week, so much unpleasantness might have been avoided.

I suppose there are some journalists out there for whom the whole postcolonial thing is kind of a novelty, so let's introduce Chris Stirewalt to an actual reporter: Bernard Fall, writing about Ho for Esquire in a piece*** called "Man Behind a War":

... an American officer well versed in American history and faced with the hundredth affirmation that Ho Chi Minh was the George Washington of Viet-Nam, quipped: "All right, so he is the George Washington of Vietnam. But do we have to get stuck with all the Benedict Arnolds?"

That's kind of the problem with a story like "Uh Ho: Obama says Vietnamese dictator inspired by Founding Fathers." Usually, when some degenerate commie puppet claims to have taken his cues from Washington or Jefferson or Franklin, it's because -- how did the pro-Beijing faction put it? 

What attracts [Ho] to these [Western] countries is their ideology of freedom, of the sovereignty of the people, of democracy, of science and technology. ... Why did he not follow the promoters of the Eastern Voyage movement to Japan and China? He thought that to fight the French colonialists with the help of the Japanese militarists, would be 'to hunt the tiger only to be eaten by the wolves.'

But let's really get Fox excited and throw Israel into the mix!

... Ho was deeply moved at hearing Ben-Gurion's account of what had happened to the Jews during the Second World War, and British intransigence bode ill for Israel's future, while Viet-Nam's case seemed on its way to an early settlement. He spontaneously offered Ben-Gurion Hanoi as the location for an Israeli government-in-exile; an offer which the Jewish leader did not turn down: after all, no one else had thus far made as generous a proposal.

Foodwise, at least, it sounds better than Uganda, which the British had talked about, or Argentina, which was apparently in play ("Palestine or Argentine?") when Herzl wrote "Judenstaat." But there's a larger point about those pesky revolutionaries. If you're interested in what they're going to try next, one of the most sensible things you can do is look at what they say. It's quite probable that they mean it.

Fox's master frames are entertaining, mostly because they tell you what to be scared of (big cities, brown people, anybody who reads books) without giving you much guidance on how to cope with the rest of the world, other than buying lots of gold and freeze-dried food. In lots of ways, that's the "hate gap" that Bernard Fall wrote about: how a "frail 77-year-old gentleman with a whispy beard and rubber sandals" could actually pose a "threat to the freedom of Southeast Asia" -- no matter how much he came to admire the Founding Fathers on his voyages between France and America.

That's one of the fundamental realist principles that Fox's master frames simply don't permit. It's all well and good to say that you'll never negotiate with "the terrorists," but that's not really the question. The question is whether you'll negotiate with "the terrorists" before or after they exchange the balaclavas for neckties and become "the government," because in a high proportion of cases, that's what they do. Bernard Fall has been dead for 45 years, but he has a lot more to tell you about the world than Fox does.

* Fox also has something more, ahem, colorful in mind. Wonder what that could be!
** Not to suggest those categories are exclusive or anything. I will try to catch up on some examples as time permits.
*** I'm working from a posthumous edition of "Last Reflections on a War," and grateful, as is often the case, to regular visitor Strayhorn, who turned me on to Fall through "Hell in a Very Small Place," his account of the siege of Dienbienphu.

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