Archive for the ‘"Today's News" or "Edward R. Murrow is up to 1500 RPM By Now"’ Category

Question: How did Fox News attempt to discredit the recent U of Maryland study that found Fox viewers to be a comparatively misinformed bunch?
a.  Attacked the wording of the study’s questionnaire
b.  Characterized the directors of the study as left wingers
c.  Claimed the study’s correct answers came from biased sources
d.  Belittled the study as mere fodder for the liberal mainstream media
Correct answer: All of the above
A News Organization Like no Other

I tried to find out how other news sources had handled similar studies or findings that implied continuing inaccuracy in their reporting, but strangely enough, I couldn’t find any. Sure, there were lots of complaints about different news organizations misreporting specific stories, and lots of individuals claiming left and right bias in the mainstream media, but there was no similar academic study finding the viewers of a specific news channel to be consistently more misinformed than non-viewers. In this journalistically embarrassing category, Fox News stands alone.

This is where Fox’ claim of liberal bias comes in handy, though. Ailes and crew refute the study by claiming the professors who designed the study are liberals who have it in for Fox, thus discrediting the study and reinforcing anti-intellectualism in an inspired Fox News twofer. In addition, they claim liberal or Democratic bias in the experts who determined the study’s correct answers. Finally, they trot out their timeworn claim of left-wing bias in the mainstream media. If it ain’t the professors, it’s the experts, claims Fox. If it ain’t the professors and experts, it’s the reporters reporting the story. Presto–study refuted. It’s almost poetically foolproof, in a wild-eyed paranoid kind of way.

Though we probably didn’t need an academic study to confirm our nagging suspicion that Fox just might not be on the up and up, it’s nice to have as a tangible reference. It also serves as a reminder that our democracy has never before seen such a strange, potentially calamitous phenomenon as Fox News, where facts are selectively partisan and the viewer comes away from the TV with an alternate universe firmly planted in his head.

The Fox Effect

Take the subject of global warming, for instance. Scientists overwhelmingly agree that global warming is likely due to man’s activity. They also believe that its effects, left unchecked, will lead to catastrophe for life on our planet. Further, they agree that our only hope lies in immediate action to counter its effects. Meanwhile, back at “Facts Schmacts Central,” 60% of regular Fox viewers do not believe that most scientists agree global warming is even occurring. That’s occurring, mind you. When it comes time to adopt anti-warming measures or elect candidates who take climate change seriously, how will 6 of 10 Fox News viewers vote? So much for immediate action.

Comments from “The Truth About Fox News Viewers” at conservative Free demonstrate how Fox News’ dueling facts and “circle the wagons” mentality plays out in the world of the Fox faithful.

“Amazing. They are now claiming that showing skepticism of dubious claims indicates narrow-mindedness,” writes Fox viewer, Tribune. Through the magic that is Fox, consensus on climate change formed by the National Academy of Sciences, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science are reduced to “dubious claims” By Fox viewers.

“Yep, time to re-educate all the nonwatchers of MSM in Progresssssive [sic] Education Gulags!” says Leo Carpathian, raising the argument to neo-John Birch Society hysteria.

“We must support Conservative news outlets at every opportunity. The Marxists will continue to attack from every direction with every method possible,” writes Blam, proving that Joe McCarthy lives, and that Fox-brand paranoia is contagious.

Though the logic escapes me, a number of commenters point to Fox News’ comparatively large ratings as proof of its accuracy. I may be nitpicking here, but to me the only thing Fox News’ large ratings prove is that Fox misinforms a lot of people.

A news service pumping half-truths and nowhere-near-the-truths into the public consciousness 24/7 can’t be good for a democracy and its requisite informed electorate, can it?

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The worst PR for the rabid right   (Photo: David Shankbone/Wikimedia)

The worst PR for the rabid right (Photo: David Shankbone/Wikimedia)

Glenn Beck—An American Original

The wonderful thing about the Glenn Beck show is Beck’s complete lack of self-restraint and good judgment. It’s like watching an Id on amphetamines strangling a defenseless 90-pound weakling Superego every day at 5 o’clock. With no  internal editor counseling Beck against buffoonery and the endless spouting of easily disprovable “facts,” he stands intellectually and morally challenged before the world as the worst PR imaginable for the New Republican Party.

A Few Recent Gems from the Beck Collection:

Regarding the history of race relations, Beck believes things were “moving in the right direction” “…until the lead up to the Civil War.”

According to Beck: Joe McCarthy—the infamously unbalanced red-baiter of the 50s—was right.

Beck has suggested that predator drones would be used by Obama to monitor Tea Parties.

Beck: “We have more in line today with the communist goals of 1963″ than with the Constitution.


Just take a moment to think about Beck’s take on race relations in America during the early to mid 19th century: “…moving in the right direction.” What could he possibly mean by that? Was there less whipping by slave owners? Listening closely to that show’s clip, he seems to be implying that blacks and whites of the late 18th and 19th centuries got along handsomely until politicians started making such a big deal out of slavery. If they just had shut up about that little divisive matter of one human being owning another, things would have been fine.

If you don’t count the Beck faithful, Beck may be the only non-straight-jacketed individual on the planet to find the works of discredited Mormon historian W. Cleon Skousen to be of any value at all, let alone central to his very being. Skousen, the man Beck claims “changed my life,” believed President Eisenhower was a communist agent, and was considered too far right by famed anti-communist FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, who kept a 2,000-page dossier on the guy. An avid supporter of the John Birch Society (famous for warning us about the commie plot known as fluoridated water), and a big believer in one-world conspiracies and end-times dogma, Skousen was marginalized as too radical and loopy by Goldwater Republicans during the sixties, and was treated by his own Mormon Church as an embarrassment. Beck, however, has scraped the mildew off Skousen’s books and papers, and repackaged them as prophesy.

The Right vs. Wrong

These are just tiny glimpses into the astonishing nuttiness of Mr. Beck. His bold incoherence, his open-your-mouth-and-see-what-comes-out approach to philosophical discourse, and his knack for self-promotion are driving more sensible conservatives, like Matthew Continetti of The Weekly Standard, to distraction. Continetti’s piece  in the Standard is as merciless to Beck as anything penned by the left—with a lot more sting.

Continetti has good reason to be concerned. Beck stands as a constant reminder of the hijacking of the Republican Party by those who increasingly waddle over the line between extremist ideology and certifiable.

Keep Beck on the Air

Those boycotting Beck’s sponsors and calling for his dismissal believe Beck’s rhetoric often oozes into hate speech, and has directly or indirectly caused violent behavior by some of his more unstable devotees. When I recall the TV images of some of the folks who attended Beck’s “9.12” gathering in Washington, the accusation isn’t difficult to believe. However, suppressing anyone’s speech, no matter how inflammatory or moronic, is a dangerous thing to do.

The best reason to keep Beck on the tube, though, is his headline-grabbing absurdity. Reasonable conservatives and independents may not watch his show, but the mainstream media—always on the lookout for outrageousness—make sure that such gems as Beck’s  “exposé of FEMA concentration camps” and conviction that George Soros is planning to kill him are always fresh in people’s minds.

As the most visible face of the New Republican (read:Tea) Party, it is imperative that Beck’s latest outrages continue to be fresh in the minds of independents and embarrassed Republicans, especially at voting time.

The isolated cases of alleged Beck-inspired violence wouldn’t hold a candle to what the world would be in for if Beck’s breed of Republicans were ever voted into power.

If you happened to catch Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce this morning on MSNBC, you got a glimpse of just how low America’s political discourse has sunk. Interruptive, combative and utterly boorish, Pearce let loose with a barrage of non-facts that would make Rod Blagojevich blush.

Just a couple of this morning’s Pearce-isms:

According to Pearce, the horde of illegal immigrants crossing our border is composed chiefly of child molesters, drug dealers and rapists (fiendishly masquerading as people looking for work, I guess).

Asked to comment on Mexican president Felipe Calderon’s assertion that America’s addiction to illegal drugs is partly to blame for the violence and racketeering of Mexican cartels, Pearce countered, “Those drugs are illegal; you can’t even get them in the United States.”  Evidently, the narcotraficantes are moving copious amounts of blow and Mexican tar northward just in case Gringos ever do find a way to “get them.”

Say What?

I’m not sure that even Pearce knew what he meant by that last one, but both statements are prime examples of the new “Proudly Dumb” movement galumphing its way into cable news and talk radio.  Just yell louder than your opponent, and make up any darned “fact” you please, no matter how easily disprovable. Oh, and remember to shake your head emphatically while the other guy is speaking. According to Students Against Drunk Drivers (SADD), one-in-six American high school seniors has driven high on reefer during the last year alone –If that ain’t demand, what is?

On this particular morning, however, Pearce didn’t even have an opponent. He was being interviewed by MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer, whose only challenge to Pearce was her seeming inability to make sense of what he was hissing at her. Pearce was in full combat mode, nonetheless.

The Face of SB 1070

To a certain segment of the listening and viewing public, Pearce’s debate style probably seems commanding and effective (much like a well-slammed folding chair across the back of a WWE wrestler seems commanding and effective). To thinking people, however, it comes off as the raving of a guy who is sorely lacking a fundamental understanding of illegal immigration — and manners.

The real losers in Pearce’s performance were supporters of SB1070, Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law. As the author of the legislation, Senator Pearce did for the law’s detractors what no demonstration could ever do. In one 3-minute tantrum, Pearce managed to lend a lot of credence to those who claim the law is mean-spirited, reckless and vindictive.

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So, Squeaky Fromme is finally getting out of the big house.

I tried to imagine how she would look after so many years.  Immediately, the spooky, red-hooded killer-dwarf from Nicolas Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now” came to mind.

News of Fromme’s release caught me by surprise.  I figured her intimate association with Charles Manson and her very high profile support of that killer-dwarf would be enough to put her away for a couple centuries.  Not to mention, she had tried to shoot the president of the United States.

Or had she?

Did you know that Ms. Fromme had intentionally removed the cartridge from the chamber of her gun before heading out to intersect with President Ford?

Neither did I; nor did a dozen or so friends I polled.

According to the report, Fromme’s yelling, “It didn’t go off.  It didn’t go off,” while she was being wrestled to the ground — was pure show biz.  She knew damned well it wouldn’t fire.  One of the first admissions she made to police was where she had hidden the round.  A subsequent police search found the cartridge right where she said it was – in her bathroom at home.

OK then, “Squeaky” wasn’t quite as nuts as I thought she was.  Big deal.

But wait, why did it take three decades for me to discover that fact?   I may be nitpicking here, but it seems Ms. Fromme’s intention — or lack thereof — to assassinate the president of the United States would be a rather important part of the story.

Could it be the nation’s news directors and editors of the day didn’t like the idea of a messy mitigating fact screwing up a terrific “good vs evil” story?

Or, as an often-paranoid friend suggests, omitting this pertinent part of the story would provide a little, much-needed political cachet for the Right.  At that time, the Nixon resignation, Vietnam and Watergate were still very much on Americans’ minds.  Anything that could be given an anti-Left spin — no matter how far-fetched — could be somewhat useful.  Imagine the Wall Street Journal faced with the decision whether to run,  “Prominent Member of Counter-Culture Attempts Presidential Assassination” or “Manson Member Makes Clicking Noise and Mean Face at President.”

And, this was back in the relatively innocent, less vertically integrated media of the 70s.  With the decimation of FCC rules prohibiting the concentration of news into too few hands, we’ve wound up with eight corporations controlling eighty-five percent of the news Americans read, listen to, and watch.  Granted, there are plenty of noble-but-broke non-MSM publications — and even a few broadcast organs — that remain pure, choosing stories and topics strictly for their journalistic merit.  But, those are for that endangered species known as the “American News Junky.”  Everybody else gets their opinion-shaping info from the MSM.  And, sadly, everybody‘s vote counts the same.

Remember when “Fair & Balanced — and Apparently On the Take” Fox News pulled an investigative piece about Monsanto Corp’s bovine growth hormone Posilac because Monsanto was a valued Fox advertiser?  Well, Fox kept the Monsanto account, but Fox’ viewers were kept in the dark about Posilac. That was back in ’96.  It’s frightening to think how many stories — or parts of stories — have been kept from us since then.