Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Four legs good, two legs better

Hey, kids! See if you can spot the subtle differences in the Fair 'n' Balanced treatment of these two stories of race, new media and the academy!

The tale above reached the No. 4 spot on the homepage today, though it broke out over the weekend in the local press. In a fit of pique somewhere on the continuum between GET OFF MY LAWN!!! and actually cutting eyeholes in the old pillowcases, a very senior political science professor left a comment on a New York Times editorial, complaining (among other things) that:

Every Asian student has a very simple old American first name that symbolizes their desire for integration. Virtually every black has a strange new name that symbolizes their lack of desire for integration.

If that seems like the sort of attitude that makes white men seem like a "problem population" for universities, meet our next case, which accounted for four frontpage stories at Fox over 10 days, starting thus:

Critics say a newly-hired Boston University professor has crossed the line with recent tweets bashing whites, but the school says it’s simply free speech.

You make the call: "White masculinity isn’t a problem for america’s colleges, white masculinity is THE problem for america’s colleges.”

Starting to form a picture of the differences here? She's junior (PhD 2014, about to take up her appointment at BU), and she's attacking the most persecuted minority in America, and ... OK, the rest is going to be on the final. (Hint: Why are his comments "racial" while hers are "racist"?) By comparison, here's Fox's lede on the Duke story:

A Duke University professor was defiant after the school last week condemned his "noxious" and "offensive" words in a letter published in The New York Times in which he compared African-Americans unfavorably to Asian-Americans.

Notice something else? Here's a clue from the N&O story:

Duke officials decried the professor’s comments while defending his right to make them.

Read more here:
You mean .... it's not just free speech when librul colleges are defending their uppity junior faculty? Indeed, you can search the Fox version pretty thoroughly and never run across this (apparently otherwise lede-worthy) development:

Duke spokesman Michael Schoenfeld distanced the university from the professor’s New York Times comments but also pointed out academic freedom provisions in Duke’s Faculty Handbook.

Read more here:
You can, however, find this:

... the school told The News & Observer of Raleigh that he was placed on leave and that 2016 will be his last year at the school.

Which, if not an out-and-out lie, is the next best thing to one. Here's the N&O again:

He said in his email that he has been on leave this year and will wrap up his teaching career in 2016 after 40 years at Duke.

How's that, Associated Press?

Hough has been on an academic leave unrelated to the comments, according to an email from Jack Knight, the chairman of the university's political science department. Knight said Hough was granted academic leave for the 2014-15 school year under a standard policy for faculty.

Framing isn't about the evidence as it is about the sort of narrative the evidence is arranged into. One of these narratives is about an embattled hero defying his PC masters even as they kick him to the curb (is it rude to point out too often that Fox actually made that part up?); the other about a loud, scary person whose school is going to stand idly by while she traumatizes the best minds of a generation.

How do stories get assigned to one category or the other? Maybe we could start to tease that apart by looking through the Fox archives for the sorts of actors and concepts that co-occur with a phrase like "race card."

Read more here:

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