Saturday, February 02, 2013

Today in agenda-setting

You can learn a lot about what a story's supposed to be by looking at the stories it's supposed to be like -- here, the sidebars accompanying the afternoon's No. 2 story at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network.

The AP thumbsucker makes sense, but when you get to "USDA Sets New Standards" (glossed at The Fox Nation as "Obama unloads 160 pages of school snack regulations") and "More Americans Delaying Retirement," you get a clearer picture. This isn't a Second Amendment package, it's a Kenyan Muslim Perfidy package: the usurper is coming for your guns and your potato chips!

In agenda-setting terms, the first thing that comes to mind is issue salience. The brain is a busy place; it has a limited carrying capacity for issues, and -- quite reasonably -- we take a lot of cues from what we read and see about which issues to pay attention to and how to rate them. At the first level of agenda-setting, where the media's ranking of issues inspires a public ranking of those issues, Obama's devilry has been back and forth with Iranian Peril and Missing Moms all day.

The second level of agenda-setting goes to what's called attribute salience: not just whether "the economy" is a big deal, but whether "the slowly improving economy" or "we're gonna be GREECE!!!!!!!" is how you think about the economy.* For the attribute agenda -- how you should think about the things that issue salience tells you to think about -- you need to turn to the story itself:

The White House has released a photograph of President Obama skeet shooting at Camp David -- some proof for critics skeptical about whether Obama, amid efforts to tighten gun control, saying he takes target practice at the presidential retreat and that he has a “profound respect” of the tradition of hunting.

It'd be asking a lot for a Fox copy editor to call bullshit on the whole enterprise, but if it's contending for top story of the day, could you at least read the lede for syntax?

The official photo apparently depicts Obama – wearing protective glasses and earmuffs -- firing the shotgun Aug. 4, 2012. It was released Friday on the White House’s Flickr account.

"Apparently." Hold that thought!

The back-and-fourth** about whether the president indeed shoots clay targets – or “pigeons” – started after The New Republic on Sunday release*** an interview with the president in which he was asked if he had ever fired a gun.

 Not really. The "back-and-fourth" has been about whether he's a lying Kenyan, not about what he shoots. But go on!

... Whether the photo will silence those skeptical about the president’s experience handling a firearm remains unclear.

"The president is holding the shotgun as one would hold and aim a rifle," said John H. Josselyn, legislative vice president for the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore Inc. "If the president were actually shooting on a skeet or trap range, he would have been wearing a belt with a shell bag or a shooting vest. This is a poorly staged publicity photo intended to deceive the public by portraying the president as something he is not."

Josselyn is a certified firearms instructor for the National Rifle Association and Maryland State Police.

Good for him. Unless he's also a certified mind-reader, he's also blowing smoke.

Chris Chenowith, a member of the Carney Rod and Gun Club, outside Baltimore, pointed out the president has his right hand pretty far up the barrel.

"It gets awfully warm up there," he said. "He might have shot the gun like that, but not more than once."

Does it sound as if Fox is trolling for expert comments on the Intarwebz again? Anyway, if the expert here is referring to the photo tagged "2623cropped.png" at The Fox Nation ... you make the call, but it looks to me like Obama's hand is on the front stock, not the barrel. Which shouldn't produce any discomfort greater than, oh, selling America's birthright out to the commies or other day-to-day activities.****

Should you be wondering, Fox's culture-war reporter has also checked in, under the hed "White House Declassifies Obama Skeet Photo" ("issue ownership" is actually a whole different theory, covering how people who can't tell press releases from the classification process -- or rifles from shotguns -- can still pose as experts on security issues):

It took the White House a full week to declassify a photograph of President Obama skeet shooting — in his mom jeans no less.

...You might recall President Obama caused quite the scandal last week when he told The New Republic magazine that he goes skeet shooting all the time. He said he was right partial to going shooting — and said he shot a mess of skeet up at Camp David.

To be strictly accurate -- or, you know, "honest" -- no, he didn't. The Goober-speak is all Todd.

But sources told Fox News that’s not exactly the case. They say President Obama hardly ever goes skeet shooting — and the one time that he did — he looked “awkward and uncomfortable.”

If President Obama can’t be honest about a clay pigeon — what makes you think he can be honest about Benghazi?

That's attribute agenda-setting at its finest. The Fox mothership lets you think it; if you need someone to say it, there's always The Fox Nation.

* If you want to call this "framing," go ahead. I'm not going to complain.
** I'm not a big (sic) fan, but -- y'know, (sic).
*** (Sic), (sic), (sic)
**** That's one good reason for having a chunk of wood between your hand and the barrel.

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