Saturday, February 16, 2013

Now that's just making stuff up

The Fair 'n' Balanced Network stands apart from its more enthusiastic right-wing stablemates in one important way: When the fiction referee is looking, it almost always has its pivot foot down. No matter how stacked the deck or bizarre the proposition, there's usually a source or a reference somewhere in a Fox story that makes the headline at least technically not-false.* When Fox tells you that "critics question" some action or inaction of the Kenyan Muslim usurper, the critics might be paid Fox contributors, but they are critics, and they are questioning, and there you are.

Here, though, Fox is just out-and-out lying. No, homework hasn't been canceled on Wiccan and Pagan holidays.** That's partly because it hasn't been canceled on any other holidays either, but it's mostly because Fox is simply  -- well, you know, making stuff up.

Students at University of Missouri don't need to cram for exams that fall on Wiccan and Pagan holidays, now that the school has put them on par with Christmas, Thanksgiving and Hanukah.

"On par" meaning they're in the same document, which while not actually a screaming out-and-out lie is certainly an entertaining way to approach concepts like "on par." Whether students no longer need to "cram" for those exams is a different question, as is the proclamation in the hed that homework is canceled on those days. The first is meaningless, the second is bogus. (And while we're on the subject, it's the University of Missouri to you, bucko; they don't capitalize the "the," but they do teach copy editing.)

The university’s latest “Guide to Religions: Major Holidays and Suggested Accommodations” -- designed to help faculty know when and when not to schedule homework and exams -- lists eight Wiccan and Pagan holidays and events right alongside more mainstream occasions. It's all part of the school's effort to include everyone's beliefs, although some critics say listing every holiday associated with fringe belief systems is a bit much.

This is more typically Fox; "some critics" means one Fox contributor who also hosts a radio show. You'd like to think somebody at Fox might have learned a lesson from the last presidential campaign about the risks of calling some belief systems fringier than others, but this sort of deocentrism is hardly unique to Fox.

“The holidays and accommodations section of this guide is provided to faculty, staff and student leaders as an educational resource for the myriad of religious holy days celebrated at Mizzou,” the guide reads. “Not only does this section offer crucial information about dates and practices, we also hope that the information about recommended academic and food accommodations will be valuable to those planning classroom activities and other academic and co-curricular events.”

Under the general logic of news, this would be the point at which we get specific examples that support the cancellation of homework for our witchly classmates:

The first holiday on the list is the Hindu two-day festival celebrating the birth of Krishna, a god considered to be a “warrior, hero, teacher and philosopher.” During the observance, which occurs on Aug. 28 this year, Hindus are likely to forgo sleep in order to, among other things, sing traditional songs.

“Avoid scheduling major academic deadlines on this day, since it is likely that students will be operating on very little sleep,” the guide continues.

Other holidays like Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah and Easter are included in the guide of 43 holidays with varying degrees of suggested accommodations to be granted to students at the 34,000-student public university in Columbia.

Partly true. The recommendation for Ramadan is "
If possible, avoid scheduling major academic deadlines during this time"; for Rosh Hashanah, a "holiday with significant work restriction," it's "avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events, or activities on this date." No accommodations are suggested for either Western or Orthodox Easter, probably because there are no classes on Sundays. (If you're still wondering what it means for the guide to have placed Satan's little dinner parties "on par" with Christmas, the guide notes that the latter "is a national holiday in the United States, so special accommodations are likely not required.")

For Samhain, listed as a Pagan and Wiccan celebration considered by some to be the Wiccan New Year, general practices include “paying respect to ancestors, family members, elders of the faith, friends, pets and other loved ones” who have died. The holiday coincides with Halloween.

See the pivot foot moving? This is from the "general recommendations" section of the "Samhain" entry. It's not from "recommended accommodations," which you can find for Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah, Ash Wednesday, the Chinese new year and many others, because there are no "recommended accommodations" for Samhain. Nor are any accommodations recommended for Mabon, the Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, the Summer Solstice or Lammas. Fox is simply lying. Not only has MU not "canceled" homework for the Wiccans (let alone the Muslims***), it doesn't even recommend that you bring Halloween cupcakes to your evening classes.

Needless to say, it wouldn't be a Fox story if it didn't let "some critics" put the matter into perspective:

Tammy Edwards, radio host of the nationally syndicated “Tammy Bruce Show” and Fox News contributor, said she found the guide to be indicative of an unbecoming societal shift.

“It almost seems as though we’re looking for excuses for people to not have to take their commitments seriously,” Edwards told “It’s beyond political correctness; it’s almost like an excuse to do nothing. It’s like societal nihilism, where nothing matters.”

You get the impression that she hasn't read the guide very closely either, but that's not her role.  She's just putting things into context for you. If you've managed to recover from the State of the Union address, she's there to remind you that the world is still going to hell as fast as Pelosi, Alinsky and Soros can stoke the cauldrons.

Most of what you see at Fox, like most competently crafted propaganda anywhere, contains at least a sliver of fact, however acrobatically you have to stretch to see it. Should anyone ask if there are exceptions, though: Yes. Sometimes Fox really does just make things up.

* Some journalists thus refer to Fox, apparently with a straight face, as "a professional news organization.
** The inside hed is fudged with a question mark: "No homework on Wiccan, Pagan holidays at University of Missouri?" It's thus technically a Stupid Question rather than a lie.
*** You have to wonder how long it will take for this omission to show up in someone's annual review.

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Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Not about the basic lie, but the expert commentary: So "their commitments", which they want excuses not to take seriously, don't include their religious ones? Oh, right; because only Christian commitments count.

3:09 PM, February 16, 2013  
Blogger fev said...

Verily, verily, I say unto you: The War on Christmas came early this year.

11:52 PM, February 16, 2013  
Anonymous Andy Bechtel said...

This time, it's personal: In a folo, they mock D&D players.

7:39 PM, February 17, 2013  

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