Posts Tagged ‘Fox News’

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 Republic.com 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 Joe McCarthy lives, and 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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It used to make me crazy that votes cast by uninformed citizens carried as much weight as those cast by folks who at least cared enough to learn something about the candidates and issues on the ballot.  It seemed unfair that a person with no historical reference, someone who couldn’t be bothered to read – or even watch – the news had every bit as much influence in the voting booth as someone who could name one of his state’s senators, knew that the Gettysburg Address was not part of the Constitution and was pretty darned sure we did not fight North Vietnam during World War Two.

There oughta be a voting test, I thought.  Kinda like a DMV driving test—a short, maybe 10-question exam, that would separate the civic numbskulls from the not-numbskulls. Score 7 out of 10, and you get your ballot.  Simple.

But there was a problem. Who would design the test? The temptation to skew the test toward one ideological direction or other is too great to leave the job to some overzealous or corruptible employee of the Registrar of Voters.  In other words, we would have to select the proper test by public referendum—putting us right back where we started. Damn. Democracy is messy.

Eventually, I realized that it really didn’t matter anyway. All the votes based on criteria, like “Hey, this candidate has the same first name as my second cousin” and “Wow, this proposition’s number is my wife’s lucky lotto number!” would cancel each other out, leaving the more reasoned votes to battle for the direction of our glorious democracy.

Or so I thought.

Rebels Without a Clue

How was I to know that fear, anger, a wrecked economy and a rightwing TV network would one day marshal those once unconcerned voters into a potent “throw the bums out” voting bloc called “The Tea Party?”

Though it appears the Tea Party-ers’ new passion for politics has not compelled them to become any more informed than they were before joining the movement, don’t worry; Fox News tells them everything they need to know in short, easy-to-parrot catchphrases. So, instead of directing their anger toward the poodle politicians who continue to sell Americans’ health and standard of living to the highest corporate bidders, they blame Obama, a president who has at least shown some inclination–timid though it may be–to rein in the robber-barons of the insurance, energy, healthcare and banking industries.

Chumped

As the Tea Party screams about socialism and Big Government’s intrusion into the private sector, guess who sits back in their $15,000 ostrich leather recliners, gleefully rubbing their hands together like Snidely Whiplash, salivating in anticipation of the next Tea Party victory—the board members of the very corporations whose gambling, outsourcing and greed created the Great American Mess in the first place; that’s who. Bravely marching on, waving their “Obama is a Communist Nazi” signs, the Tea Party-ers have no idea that they’re actually being led down a Stars and Stripes-festooned chute to a fiscal slaughtering pen.

It’s not that Tea Party candidates or members are any smarter or dumber than your average extremist, war-happy, nativist, homophobic, rightwing Republican. It’s just that I would have hoped a sweet, home-grown candidate like the Tea Party’s newest champion, Christine O’Donnell, might at least see economic matters a bit differently than Establishment Republicans, whose ideas of personal adversity run toward catastrophes like late limo drivers and overcooked chateau briand.

Unlike the upper-crust Republicans who populate Capitol Hill, O’Donnell is a working gal who, like so many Americans, has personally felt the sharp pain of financial insolvency. You’d think that at some point while trying to dig herself out of  IRS liens and threatened home foreclosures, Ms. O’Donnell would have noticed how dramatically the deck has been stacked against working Americans by large  corporations and their handmaidens in Congress. That in her darkest moment of despair she would have been struck by a blinding flash of understanding that a gambled-away economy, stagnant wages, unaffordable healthcare and a disappearing middle class are not the results of over-sized government, but of corporate avarice and power run amok; that Big Government isn’t the problem…Owned Government is.

The Loopy Bunch

“Throw the bums out,” has been the rallying cry of a disgruntled electorate since the founding of our democracy. Members of the Tea Party movement, however, have added  their own unique codicil: “Throw the bums out and replace them with people who are as clueless as we are.”

Case in point: Tea Party favorite and Republican nominee for the New York gubernatorial race, Carl Paladino.  Sure, he’s unbalanced and looks like he could spontaneously combust at any moment, but he also appears to be unbelievably stupid. Did he not see the cameras and lights when he threatened to “take out” New York Post reporter Fredric Dicker? Did he not realize that he would come off looking like a temperamental maître d’ doing a really bad Goodfellas routine? And of all the news organizations on the planet to go after, which does Paladino choose? Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post–trumpet of the Rabid Right, and friend to Paladino’s campaign…until Paladino went thug on them, that is.

In Kentucky there’s the Tea Party-approved,  tousle-haired Rand Paul, publicly voicing his opposition to both the Civil Rights Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, while O’Donnell’s past dabblings in witchcraft, and rejection of evolution and masturbation continue to provide insight into the early development of a Tea Party great.

Good lord, I wouldn’t trust these people to park my car!

The Tea Party movement could be a blessing, though. It is already causing wide-spread panic throughout the Republican Party, which is always a good thing. GOP leaders are now forced to answer two difficult questions,  “Do we sign on with these loons and risk losing the few sane people we have left, or do we ignore them and pray that their amazing facility for self-destruction quickly slides them back under the rock?” The first strategy would surely strike terror in the hearts of many Independents, driving them back to the Democrats; but strategy #2 might cause the Crazed Right to stay home on election day — an interesting dilemma.

The Tea Party movement also serves as a kind of national bellwether. If my countrymen are crazy enough to put that crew into Congress, where their votes could actually influence what goes on in my country and my life, I’ll know that it’s time to move to Greenland.


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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.

Inspiration

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.

Why can’t the right come up with a likable talk show host or pundit? Sensible folks generally do their best to avoid loud, boorish and obnoxious people, but in the world of Fox News and the imbroglio we call talk radio, it is exactly those types who live in ratings rapture.

Being an ACLU card-carrying, “public option”-supporting liberal makes me a bit biased, of course, but it also compels me to try and find at least a spark of goodness in everyone–that’s what we good Libs do.  Believe me, this is no easy task when confronted with such raging dysfunction as:

  1. Bill O’Reilly (bullying, loud-mouthed narcissist)
  2. Grover Norquist, (aura of self-importance and nastiness that would make Il Duce blush)
  3. William Bennett (classic “do as I say, not as I do” moralist)
  4. Anne Coulter (psycho-sexual mess / borderline sociopath)
  5. Sarah Palin (chronic synaptic misfire / finds reality to be optional)
  6. Rush Limbaugh (same problems as O’Reilly–only less subtle)

[For propriety’s sake, I am purposely leaving Glenn Beck out of this because his disorders appear to be far more serious than the garden-variety personality problems suffered by his colleagues]

Any one of these six listed blowhards could clear out a dinner party before the entree was served.  And, if they all happened to be guests at the party, something akin to The Lord of the Flies would surely break out — the entree ultimately consisting of each other.

Where are the Loons of the Left?

To be fair, I’m sure we have a few famous progressives with personality problems, as well.  But, they must do a better job at keeping them in check because, try as I might, I can’t come up with a left-leaning host or pundit with a temperament even approaching the bad-natured, mean spirit of  O’Reilly, Coulter and Limbaugh.  Even when Michael Moore goes predator, there is almost always an underlying decency and good humor about him–the Charlton Heston interview notwithstanding.

Imagine Rachel Maddow doing Bill O’Reilly’s  “Fuck it, we’ll do it liiive!” song and dance. Doesn’t compute, does it?  Or, how about Ed Schultz urging all good Democrats to begin roughing up Republicans, as Coulter once suggested – in the reverse, of course – on the Lou Dobbs Show.  Or, imagine Keith Olbermann displaying the astonishing insensitivity to suggest that a tax hike is comparable to the Holocaust, as Grover Norquist did in an NPR interview.

This may be why the Left has such a hard time competing with the Right on talk radio.  Like trout and babies, American audiences love things that wiggle.  And nothing wiggles more than mindless, incendiary statements like Limbaugh’s “I hope Obama fails,” or the endless list of 50,000-watt Neanderthals shouting, “The ‘Democrat’ Party [check out “How the ‘Democrat’ Party Lost its ‘ic'”]  is a bunch of America-hating, communist-Nazi-sissies!”

We demand our wiggles, and because Jerry Springer can’t be on twenty-four hours a day, we look for them elsewhere.

The Genesis of Jerkdom

What exactly is it about the Right that gives them such a leg-up on the Left in the jerk department?  Sure, some of the loud, obnoxious stuff is phony, P.T. Barnum-style pimping for ratings and book sales, but a lot of it seems to be genuine, heartfelt ugliness.

If Freud was right, the Limbaughs and Coulters of the world were doomed to be jerks by the age of six.  What sent them down the rightward path is anybody’s guess — their parents, perhaps.  Maybe they were poisoned by an influential teacher or classmate during high school or by reading “The Fountainhead” one too many times.

Or could it be that a worldview based on militarism, nativism and the marginalization of the poor and minorities just feels like home to a bullying, narcissistic loudmouth?