Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Unfair and unhinged

Most people have recognized for quite some time that Fox News' claim to be a "fair and balanced" television news operation is one of the bigger jokes in journalism. The latest assaults on dignity and whatever reputation they had left came recently in the form of attacks on Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle. The Obamas are public figures and are certainly open for inspection when it comes to their beliefs and public statements, but Fox News went so far over the line of good taste and journalistic integrity as to be laughable. According to Associated Press TV writer David Bauder, Fox contributor Liz Trotta had to apologize for making a joke about an Obama assassination, while also calling the Democratic candidate "Osama." Then E.D. Hill, who until a recent cancellation had a show called "America's Pulse," suggested that some people viewed a fist bump between the Obamas as a "terrorist fist jab." Then, as if that weren't enough, Fox News used a graphic that referred to Michelle Obama as "Obama's baby mama." For God's sake. Joan Walsh, a Salon.com columnist, wondered, "Are they racist, or just clueless?" Both, maybe? Some of you will remember E.D. Hill, shown above, as the former Edye Tarbox, who had a less-than-illustrious career as a news anchor at WPXI in Pittsburgh in the late '80s. She hasn't been all that easy to keep track of since then, because she keeps changing her name, sometimes as the result of her marriages, which are about as numerous as President Bush's rationales for going to war in Iraq. Maybe she's trying to outrun the stench that follows her journalism career. According to Bauder's story, Hill said she appropriated the "terrorist fist jab" from something she read on the Internet. That's just great. Take something incredibly stupid that was said by some wingnut on the Web and put it on a national TV news show. What a jackass. Maybe it's time for Fox News to issue a new mission statement, something that sums up their approach to the news. Maybe something like this: "We at Fox News will be unashamed apologists for anything done by conservative Republicans and other right-minded, Christian right-wingers, even if it's to the detriment of the United States of America. At the same time, we will excoriate Democrats and other commie liberals, even if we have to resort to vicious, untruthful smears." That about sums it up.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course the standard operating procedure of CNN with 3 to 5 liberal commentators to one conservative, or MSNBC which is openly liberal is wrong too, correct? Fox gets blamed by liberal or left leaning moderates, MSNBC and CNN gets blamed by conservatives. The difference is perspective generally. Be fair and up front about it, because it has been the general partisan attitude from all in the media that causes people to distrust the medium. Oh, and please don't attempt to talk about the established media's fairness, the public has seen through all of it for a long time on both sides. It has become tiring to say the least. No one is unbiased, for to be so is to not have an opinion or to care.

June 17, 2008 at 11:19 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

You make some very valid points. All of those networks can be seen to have an agenda. My two main points are that only Fox proclaimed that it is "fair and balanced," when it clearly is not, and Fox has gone beyond the pale of decency and truth more often than the others. They are, basically, the worst of a questionable bunch. And I agree with you that each and every journalist has a personal bias on virtually every important issue in this country. The good journalists suppress their personal beliefs and values, and genuinely strive to make sure a balanced product gets to their readers, listeners or viewers. Some do a better job than others. There's an old saying that there are two sides to every story, and then there's the truth. That's probably pretty accurate. And, finally, thanks for your comments. They are truly welcome. I'm always glad to see opposing or questioning responses, because what this blog should be is a place where people can share ideas and debate from differing points of view.

June 17, 2008 at 11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There have been rumors that Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch favors Obama in the upcoming election. What will that mean for Fox if they get the edict from on high to lay off him? Heavens, who will they bash and what will they talk about?

--Brad Hundt

June 17, 2008 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

I once had a colleague at United Press International who had worked at a newspaper in South Carolina, covering the Statehouse. After covering debate on an especially contentious issue (this was in the 1970s, so it was probably allowing black people to walk on the same side of the street as whites - just kidding), my friend went back to his office to write the story and was immediately surrounded by the big-wigs at the paper, telling him how his story should be written and from what angle, in order to support the paper's position on the issue. He told them he would have something for them right away. He put a piece of paper in his typewriter, typed "I quit," and handed it to his boss. He walked out, never to return. Now that is journalistic integrity.

June 17, 2008 at 12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I generally think that the "news" shows are ridiculous and sometimes painful to watch... One reason for that is the blatant bias that oozes through in the newscast. However, I DO watch them occasionally. So, I offer this... If you expand the universe that we are talking about... Don't look just at Fox operating independent of the other Newsertainment networks... but look at all of the Television News that out there as a population of sorts. In that context, Fox could be called Fair and Balanced because their insanely right-slanted presentation of information counterweights the plethora of left-leaning newscasts out there... its like you have NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, and CNN on one side of the SeeSaw... each one represented by a normal sized child... they are the left. Then, on the other side, you have a Fox... the morbidly obese retarded kid. And the seesaw is level. In that universe, it's "fair and balanced."


June 17, 2008 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

You have a gift, my friend.

June 17, 2008 at 1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bad they are. Sad it is that we keep watching. I wonder if talking about this type of "journalism" doesn't just make it more popular. And as far as counting on the common sense of people to sort out the truth, well ...

June 17, 2008 at 3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think it's fair to put the burden of "truth" on the common people because it is sometimes difficult to get cold, unbiased DATA. The reason for that is because its almost impossible to know what question to ask... We hear a lot of "news" about Iraq... If I want to discover a truth about violence in Iraq... is it increasing or decreasing... what do I do to find that information? What question do I ask? If you ask a question, someONE is going to give you an answer... google "is violence in iraq increasing or decreasing?" The top four results are McClatchy, USAToday, NPR, and Reuters... they are the conduits for the data... I know I can find what I'm looking for eventually... but I will admit that I am smarter than your average bear... and more determined. The only truth that gets exposed in the search for raw data is that there is no truth... once you find the stats, you can make them say anything you want... say I'm in the woods and there's a bear... I shoot one arrow 10 feet to the right of the bear... then I shoot another arrow 10 feet to the left of the bear... Statistically, the bear is dead... realistically, I'm bear-shit.


June 17, 2008 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

I don't watch any television news, no matter if it's liberal, conservative, fair and balanced, or so far to the right that you need OnStar to guide you. I don't need O'Reilly, Hannity, Olberman, Colmes, Malkin, and any of the others to "break it down" for me.

The bottom line here is, well, the bottom line: it's all about ratings and advertising dollars. It's no secret that Fox News enjoys tremendous ratings, and that translates into millions of dollars, and you can bet that the powers that be at Fox make sure not to rattle the ones pulling the purse strings by putting out the liberal side of things.

June 18, 2008 at 8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Part of the problem is that no one wants to take the time to go looking for the truth from multiple sources -- they want it handed to them by talking heads. Form my own opinion? Who has time for that?

June 18, 2008 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

My mantra exactly!

June 18, 2008 at 5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree completely with your mantra and the insufficiency of the business of news... I would take the position, though, that to be thoroughly versed on the breadth of "news" events in this 24 hour, one would have to essentially be a full-time researcher (a job made more difficult due to all the horseshit you have to shovel out of your way first)... and that is just to be intelligently conversational on the subjects! Granted, though, there are two things that I hold to be true...

1)When you discover something for yourself... when the info "clicks" for you... you own it. You take two steps out of the cave for each kernel of knowledge you acquire for yourself compared to one step that you have given to you by someone else.

2)Ignorance is never an excuse. It may be an explanation, but it doesn't get you off the hook.

I am fortunate enough to have a job that, while demanding and stressful, does provide me with ample windows of opportunity to explore the world via the internet :-)... A lot of people would discover that they, too, have that time available to them, but that it may be devoured by TMZ, Bejeweled, and daydreaming.

If you cannot cut it in discovering information on your own, by all means, at least consume as MUCH as what is fed to you from as MANY different sources as you can... The regular kids aren't always right and the retarded kid sometimes throws out something profound.


June 18, 2008 at 6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meant "24 hour news cycle..."

Must have gotten distracted by Bejeweled.


June 18, 2008 at 6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To condemn Islam because of the actions of a minority of its practioners makes no more sense than to condemn Christianity because of the acts and statements of a minority of its followers. It may be true that many people view Islam as a radical religion, intolerant and violent. But according to a recent survey (and I hate surveys), a vast majority of people interviewed between 16 and 29 see Christians as anti-gay, judgmental and hypocritical.

Writing about Islam for the Washington Post in 1997, Carolyn Ruff observed this about the treatment of women in Islam:

"Traveling through the Islamic world, visitors notice that the status of women changes drastically from country to country. Westerners question why women in many Middle Eastern countries cover their heads and most of their bodies. They question the nature of freedom where women have very little political power or social clout.

'In many cases, the differences are based on local custom only. Wearing veils, for example, is not required by the Koran but in some places is local custom. Other than Islam's requirement that women dress modestly, most Muslim women are free to dress and to behave like women of any other religion.

"Historians note that, before the rise of Islamic culture in the 7th century, women in much of the world had few rights and were considered little more than chattel. Against that background, the Koran and Islamic tradition were positively revolutionary in teaching that men and women are spiritually equal and that women have the right to own and inherit property, seek divorce, gain an education, retain one's family name after marriage and the right to vote.

"Muslims such as Rkia Cornell, who teaches Asian and African languages and literature at Duke University, argue that 'every culture is inherently sexist to some degree.' Cornell insists that, as a Muslim woman, she still has the freedom to control her own life. 'Muslim women historically have had a strong role in Islamic society.'

"What some see as oppressive, Muslims view as protective. While Americans may regard a Muslim woman's attire as stifling, Muslims may view the way American women generally dress as sexist and compromising."

And wasn't itour old pal Paul,in his first letter to Timothy,who said that women should "adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array." Also that the woman in worship should "learn in silence with all subjection." And that "Adam was first formed, then Eve" putting Adam in charge. This is the basis used by some Christians to keep women in their places, although not so overtly as in Muslim nations.

Much of our current reaction to Islam is driven by fear, misunderstanding and the hype driven by the media and the Internet. When The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, did Americans roll out a wholesale condemnation of Buddhists and Shintoists? (I know we interned Japanese-Americans.) Mussolini was baptized Catholic. Did we intern all the Catholics in America?

No one on earth has any justification to condemn another's religion, especially after millennia of having it interpreted and corrupted by its practitioners.

No matter how close you feel your personal relationship with any savior or deity is, no matter how self-assured you may feel about your own salvation, no one but the dead know if there's an afterlife. Or if God is facing Mecca. And dead men don't talk.

June 21, 2008 at 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Words of two great philiosophers:

Rodney King: "Can't we all just get along?"
Rodney Dangerfield:" I don't get no respect. No respect at all.

June 21, 2008 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

To the penultimate anonymous poster, thanks much for the educational, reasoned remarks. To the last anonymous poster, thanks for letting me know I'm not the only one still quoting Rodney King. From a not-very-bright man came a very bright question. Unfortunately, I think we all know the answer.

June 21, 2008 at 9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The answer to RK's question is, of course, "No." That's been made amply clear in history. But we can still try. And let's not forget that in any war, both sides believe that god is siding with them.

June 22, 2008 at 2:21 PM  

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