Posts Tagged ‘Fox News’

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Our Current Political Discourse: Time for Critical Thinking, Not Selective Listening

12.04.10

If we consider the endless debating on the 24-hour-news TV channels, in the blogosphere, and on talk radio as healthy political discourse, we’re lacking the “healthy” and “discourse” parts of it.

Instead of focusing on facts and figures to influence a “this is the best course of action” decision, all of our time “discussing” is really just making sure that every single person’s view on things – regardless of how informed it may be – gets its validation in the world.

I suppose the idea is that offering different viewpoints allows the reader/viewer/lemming to determine on their own which one is right and which one is wrong.  Or, more likely on the complex issues not as cut-and-dried as something like the Birther insanity, that each side would offer something valuable to the discussion (and by that I mean factual knowledge, not just personal belief) that would help the reader/viewer/lemming to come to their own conclusions.  Instead, though, people tend to just latch onto whichever person already coincides with their own beliefs (not facts or conclusions) and just accepts everything that person says as truth.  Our news has become simply about offering an outlet to validate everyone, not to empower them to come to their own conclusions.

So what ends up happening? People immediately become defensive when debate occurs because it’s not a discussion of independent facts and points of view; it’s become a personal attack on beliefs.  And, of course, people just reiterating the same talking points over and over.  It’s like we’re all just in one camp or another, following the leader.  That’s not informed debate.  That’s not engaging, educational discourse.  That’s not examining complex issues. It’s just finding someone that is a supposed authority to make you feel like, “Yup! I knew it: I’m right!  See, he said so, too, so that means whatever I think it’s the truth!”

The reality is that everyone lives life in a gray area, even if they claim to – or want to – live in an ideal world where there are clearly defined rights and wrongs. Recently in a Facebook thread, I had a discussion with two Republicans who can’t stand Obama and it came down to this: no matter what Obama does, they won’t agree with him. For example: despite the fact that Obama increased the military campaign in Afghanistan — which is something that one supported — she marginalized it by saying that Obama has merely “supported” the effort there.  I countered that factually that was inaccurate — Obama drastically increased the troop levels in Afghanistan — but, it didn’t change her opinion that he was a “pansy.”  Since she already had established that as her belief of Obama, everything had to be spun to fit that image rather than amending her belief; in this case, marginalizing Obama’s surge in Afghanistan as simply “supporting” what had already been started by his predecessor.

The other commenter in the discussion summed it all up rather succinctly:

“He is slithery and two faced, that is the bottom line.we will never agree on what he has done or not, but he is a fake for sure. [sic]”

Notice that phrasing — implying that even the facts are debatable and up for personal interpretation.  We can certainly disagree on the value of his actions, but to not even be able to see eye-to-eye on what actions he’s done… I mean, that’s outside the boundaries of rational thought. Unfortunately, I feel like that’s where much of our discourse exists today.

We’re at a point where people stick to their preconceived notions in the face of facts that may run contrary, seeking out and listening to others to reaffirm and support those notions rather than absorbing the facts and using those to influence our opinions.  Coming to conclusions based on the evidence seems to be an outdated concept having lost favor to everyone needing validation that their own view of the world is the right one and everyone else is wrong.

Except for those chosen political pundits that share those same beliefs of course.

I mean: what’s so good about all sharing the same feelings on politics as Glenn Beck?  So you can have the exact same political opinions as every other Fox News Channel viewer?  Or every other talk radio listener?  Every other self-proclaimed Republican?

We should all be as skeptical of opinion writers/pundits/hosts as we are of the public figures they themselves are criticizing.  We should all also accept that:

  1. our initial opinions might be wrong;

  2. accept that we won’t share the exact same opinions that we’re “supposed to” have given our political affiliations; and

  3. we will not know what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” on every single issue or policy or maneuver or bill that comes down the pike and is discussed exhaustively in the public eye.

There’s not nearly as much security in accepting those three realities — it’s easier to sleep at night knowing that we’re right and they’re wrong.  The biggest impediment to acceptance is that the pride that has been established already in the polarizing discourse has meant that no one can handle the ego blast that one would endure at this point if a die-hard Republican admitted that – gasp! – Obama did something they agreed with for once and didn’t spin it to still retain their comforting disdain for him.

To universally dismiss and disagree with everything that someone does simply because they did it is the exact same fallacy as universally celebrating and agreeing with everything that person does simply because they did it. It’s the flip side of the same misguided coin.  We need to accept the gray area.  We need to accept that Republicans will sometimes favor (insert traditional Democrat stance here) and Democrats will sometimes favor (insert traditional Republican stance here).  This shouldn’t be surprising nor unforgivable.

It should be encouraged that we think for ourselves and have diverse stances on things rather than stick to partisan talking points.  It’s time to validate critical thinking, not selective listening.

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How to Stay Rational and Civil: Avoid Following Only One Mainstream News Outlet

08.27.10

Upon mentioning the absurdity of that whole “fair and balanced” slogan and declaring that Fox News Channel is clearly biased toward the political right, I’ve received the instant response of “Oh, and MSNBC isn’t?” more than once.

Obviously that is not a defense whatsoever. Deflecting the attention to another biased source doesn’t alleviate the bad editorialized journalism of the former.  That response effectively proves the argument that FNC is just a GOP propaganda machine.

Now, I’m not going to get into the differences between MSNBC and CNN versus Fox News.  I honestly don’t watch any cable news channel.  I don’t even watch cable TV in general as I haven’t has a subscription in over a year and a half.  I get my news from social media, so when I hear things about Fox News or MSNBC it’s usually with regard to specific news anchors.  O’Reilly said this.  Beck said that.  Maddow claimed this. Jon Stewart snarked that.

And while Fox News doesn’t shy away from the fact that it primarily endorses the Republican Party, the current divide in many Americans’ view of the press is that Fox News represents one side while every other outlet represents the other — that FNC is a necessary evil to battle back against the liberal elite.  Fine.  I don’t even have any interest in arguing with those people because it’s pointless.

The polarizing nature of our news networks does nothing to ease the increasingly extreme sides of the political divide.  It seems like a chicken or the egg situation when trying to discern whether or not the news has created this or if its merely reflecting the climate of our times.  It seems to me that the anger on both sides rose up from our economic crash and fear of things getting desperately worse and blaming the other side for the problems, which the pundits swooped up and ran with, which then incensed the sides further, which the pundits ran with… rinse and repeat.

My solution is to not solely follow any particular news network.  Don’t only read The Huffington Post and don’t always read The Drudge Report.  Don’t always watch Keith Olbermann and don’t always watch Sean Hannity.

Avoid the gut-check emotional response off the bat as much as possible.  It’s a lofty goal for which I strive but don’t always attain, I admit; but, it’s something that I’m working on.  In my last major blog post that was on Proposition 8, I ended up being engaged in a long discussion in the comments section with people with whom I vehemently disagreed and vice versa.  Throughout it all — surprisingly — it remained civil and without name-calling or offensive attacks.  We all had to agree to disagree (as is often the case), but at least the discourse didn’t digress into schoolyard bullying as is extremely common on blogs and in the news.  That’s not to say that I didn’t feel emotionally heated at times or frustrated to the point of exasperation.  But, one thing I’ve learned is to write out my response and then take a step away before hitting the Submit button.

I encourage everyone to take the same measures, on the Internet and in real life.  I will do my best.  I can’t say that my status updates and Tweets will always be rational beacons of logic, but I will try to always respond to criticism and commentary with respect and civility.  Our press might not always live up to these same standards, but there’s no reason that we can’t.

I included the image above because that’s what sparked this entire post even though I didn’t end up including it into the discussion.  The graph relates to the coverage of the story that former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman has come out as being gay. According to the image, Fox News has covered it all of zero times (at the time of the stats) while CNN and MSNBC ran over 30 stories.  Perhaps 30 stories is overkill, I really can’t say.  But zero seems strikingly low for a news channel.

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Fox News: Being Liberal is Un-American

02.20.10

Before you listen to the fair and balanced reporting over at Fox News about this topic, check out the actual article for the raw facts.  According to a new report by The Intercollegiate Studies Institute, those with higher eduction degrees tend to have more liberal opinions on controversial social issues:

The institute found that people who had attained at least a bachelor’s degree were more likely than Americans whose formal education ended with a high-school diploma to take a liberal stance on certain controversial social issues. For example, 39 percent of people whose highest level of education was a bachelor’s degree supported same-sex marriage, compared with 25 percent with a high-school diploma. The trend continued with advanced degrees: About 46 percent of people with master’s degrees supported same-sex marriage, as did 43 percent of people with Ph.D.’s.

(I couldn’t figure out how to embed the video so click the following link to watch it and then continue.)

From watching the interview, it’s fair to say that Tucker Carlson at Fox News interprets this data as such:

1) College professors push their liberal agenda on impressionable youth

2) Going to college makes people liberal on specific social issues – gay marriage, abortion, and capitalism

3) College doesn’t raise graduates’ level of civic knowledge

4) This makes going to college potentially more harmful than not going at all

5) Going to college is mainly about learning civics

6) College makes people promote no school prayer and less American work ethic

7) People becoming liberal is a problem that needs to be fixed

8) Colleges need to be more diverse with their professors – allowing more moderates and conservatives to teach the liberal arts

Here are my rebuttals:

1) How do these data at all prove that all professors are liberal and that have any sort of agenda of pushing propaganda on their students?  In fact, the data doesn’t say anything about how the students are becoming more liberal – I’m sure Tucker knows (being a college graduate and all himself) that there’s more to college than just going to class.

2) Tucker takes an extreme liberty by throwing “capitalism, the larger question of capitalism” into the list of socially liberal beliefs that are held by college graduates.  He’s insinuating that liberal college graduates are likely to question capitalism, the American way of life, and – most likely – communism.  He’s playing into the base who already think that Obama is a socialist.  The study doesn’t say that at all.  And, perhaps the reason that educated people support gay marriage is explicitly because they know more about American history – the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage – and the freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution than someone with only a high school diploma.  Not because they’re being fed some liberal propaganda.  They’re educated on worldly matters, which has made them more tolerant of other people’s beliefs.  This is a good thing.

3) It is troubling that more people don’t know basic civics, but they certainly don’t learn less by going to college.  Tucker makes it sound like going to college makes you dumber with regards to basic knowledge of the Constitution.  Given the fact that many liberals are against school prayer and in favor of same-sex marriage, I’d say they have a much better understanding of the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment than most Republicans.

4) Really? You’re going to say that going to college might be a bad investment?  That it will do more harm than good?  That could be one of the most irresponsible things to say.  There are tons of data showing that people with a college degree make way more money – and are actually keeping their jobs during this recession at a much higher rate – than those with only high school diplomas.  And this is coming from Tucker Carlson, who went to college, and know enjoys a high-paying, high-profile job (not that one needs to be a college graduate to work in conservative media – see, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck).

5) Not that this says anything good about college, but since when was attending higher education ever about learning civics?  Sure, there are prerequisites in the humanities, languages, and math that all universities have but students still get to choose which courses they want to take to satisfy those requirements.  But not everyone is interested in politics or government at 18 years old when they go to undergrad.  I certainly wasn’t.  And I wasn’t going to take a political science course when I didn’t have to; I already had enough required courses to fit in to finish my major in four years.  Either way, I do think that there should be more required studying about these civics basics… in high school.  Students should learn basics like, how to file your taxes, what FICA means on your paycheck, how to vote in elections, as well as the way our government works and what the Constitution says.

6) According to the report, college grads are more likely to disagree with this following statement: “With hard work and perseverance anyone can succeed in America.”  This is not how it’s phrased in the Fox News interview, which implies that liberals don’t have a strong, American work ethic.  It’s more that college grads are more disillusioned with the “American Dream,” or at least: they’re not ignorant of the fact that lots of people work hard, but not a lot of people are well off.  Just ask any number of the millions currently jobless right now.  Also, the stance on public prayer isn’t that college grads think that it shouldn’t ever take place.  The actual wording in the report is that they disagree that public school teachers should be able to lead prayer in school.  This is vastly different.  Having the freedom to express your beliefs is one thing.  Having the public school align itself directly with one religion is quite another.

7) Fair and balanced, indeed.  If you’re not conservative, there’s something wrong with you, apparently.  Thanks, Tucker.  I didn’t realize that the words “American” and “conservative” were synonyms now.  Talk about someone needing to brush up on his civics.

8)  Really? The whole nature of the liberal arts are that people who study them have a liberal mindset – one that is open to new and conflicting ideas.  Can you imagine a fundamentalist Christian learning about sound arguments for and against the existence of God in Philosophy 101?  This actually brings up an interesting question about this survey.  I would like to know more about the demographics of these college graduates and what their majors were.  It won’t be all too surprising if most of them end up being liberal arts majors.  If most of them are business majors or engineers, I’d be intrigued and surprised.

One thing in the report that wasn’t mentioned in the interview is that college graduates are more likely to not believe that the Bible is the word of God.  Not at all surprising.

You can form your own opinion.

Tucker Carlson and the Fox News anchor, Clayton Morris, make this out to look like there’s some vast collusion amongst all of the universities in America to indoctrinate impressionable young adults as liberals.  It’s a theoconservative’s wet-dream of a conspiracy theory.  The partisanship has gotten out of control.  The nature of being socially conservative is staying rigid, having traditional, old views on the world, being closed-minded.  In essence, not being open to the new or different.  I can’t imagine that mindset would cause many to rush out to some new city, to take new classes with a diverse group of new people with various, different faiths and cultures.

There’s another article about college that maybe Tucker and Fox News can investigate while we’re on the topic: College Dropouts Record Higher Divorce Rate.   I wonder how they’d spin that one.  People go to college, can’t handle being indoctrinated by liberals, so they drop out, become depressed, and get divorced.  I can see the headline now: “Liberalism Breaks Up Happy Families.”

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“Who Cares?” of the Day: Sarah Palin Uses Notes

02.09.10

During Sarah Palin’s speech to the Tea Party Convention, it became clear that she was using notes scribbled on the palm of her hand much like an 8th-grader cheating on a test.  Despite her rudimentary method (note cards would’ve been cleaner), the only reason this is receiving such news coverage is because Palin herself lambasted Obama on Fox News over his use of a TelePrompter.  Apparently one cannot be an effective leader if one uses notes or a typed out speech to address the nation; but, reading notes from your own hand is okay.  Her hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Regardless, I think both sides are ridiculous for even giving this issue any weight.  The Republicans really have no room to talk to defend Palin on this issue, even though they will and they have.  Of course the Democrats are going to slam Palin for her palm notes.  Why wouldn’t they after having to defend Obama’s TelePrompter usage?  But when it comes down to it, it’s such a non-issue.  The fact that Obama and Palin both use crutches for their speeches or Q-and-A sessions is irrelevant.

What people should be more focused on instead is the content of what they’re saying.  It’s a waste of energy to be diverted into this back-and-forth argument over whose use of notes was more unbecoming of a politician when the real issue is what policies they are promoting and what their plans are for our nation.  Once again, both parties and the MSM play into this political theater and the substance of Palin’s speech and answers get lost in the din.  And, to me, that’s what will really affect America if she ends up being the GOP nominee for president in 2012.  Not if she happens to keep notes for her talking points.

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FOX Nation: Not Fair, Not Balanced (Just Like Fox News)

02.06.10

Many of you probably have seen the unedited clips from Jon Stewart’s recent visit to Bill O’Reilly’s show, The O’Reilly Factor, where he contends that Fox News is essentially the media arm of the Republican Party.  O’Reilly disagrees.

Fox News posted the unaired segments from the interview on their Fox Nation website, where I went to watch.  Here’s a screen capture of what I saw when I first got there:

Out of all the possible related advertisements from the multitude of companies that pay for ad space on Fox, the one that appears next to Jon Stewart is a smear campaign run by politician Dana Walsh – who opposes health care reform and favors the War on Terror, even going so far as to call it “Islamic terror” – and who is looking to oust Nancy Pelosi from her seat in Congress in this fall’s election.

Before you even get that far, you can take a look at the items on the banner called Hot Topics.  I know it’s probably pretty small to read in the image so I’ll write them out for you: National Budget, 9/11 Terror Trial, Detroit Airliner Terror Plot, tea parties, Sarah Palin, Tim Tebow, The Constitution and Freedom.

Yes, one of the hot topics of February 4th, 2010 is the Constitution and Freedom, which if you click, will take you to a page with 8th-grade-history level videos that shows President Ronald Reagan (twice) as it talks about how the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and then when it asks the question about what would happen if a president or legislature passed a law that ran contrary to the Constitution, it of course shows President Barack Obama signing what looks like a bill into law.  Really subtle, Fox.  Really subtle.  I’m sure no one picked up on that.

You can guess that the rest of the Hot Topics all have a very Republican slant on them.  I clicked on the Tim Tebow link and was greeted with this at the top of the page:

Really? That was the screen capture of the Planned Parenthood ad that they chose?  Nothing riles up the base quite like a half-asleep-at-best-looking black man complaining about the ad from white, virgin, Christian athlete posterboy Tim Tebow (who happens to be a quarterback, a predominantly white position in football).  C’mon, Fox.  Every single article on the page is about liberal groups like the National Organization for Women (NOW) bashing both Tebow AND Sarah Palin.  Because of course she’s involved in this.  Why wouldn’t she be?

After doing a little research, it seems that while Fox Nation is owned and run by Fox News Channel, it’s a slightly different entity.  When Fox News launched it on March 30th, 2009, they ran this introduction on their site:

Here at FOX Nation, the American people will be the stars. FOX News Channel, and Foxnews.com, will continue, of course, to provide fair and balanced news coverage, but FOX Nation is different. It is about you, what you care about, what you care about enough to post and comment upon. nything [sic] you want–just keep it decent and legal!

Of course, that’s not really true since it ends up being a forum where Fox editors compile Republican slanted articles from other political websites like NewsBusters.org – whose stated goal is to neutralize the liberal media bias with its own GOP bias apparently – and post them to the Fox Nation site, and then open up comments for people to post their bile and ignorance for other like-minded ilk to feed on and repeat as if simply agreeing with each other gave credibility to their views.

At least Fox News got it right in their own description of their new site: “Foxnews.com will continue to provide fair and balanced coverage, but FOX Nation is different.”  If by different you mean not fair or balanced and is a blatant news-sponsored propaganda machine for the GOP, then actually no, it’s just like Fox News.

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Not All Atheists Against Mother Theresa Stamp

02.01.10

An atheist organization called the Freedom From Religion Foundation has come out against the US Postal Service’s new stamp commemorating the late Mother Teresa, because she is a religious figure.  Naturally, an uproar on the blogosphere has ensued and rightly so.  This type of inflammatory event is precisely what many bloggers – on both sides of the political divide – live for.

I have no real interest in treading the same territory that has already been well covered.  My issue is with the leap that many bloggers have taken in suggesting that one atheist group speaks for all atheists everywhere.

The main news article breaking the story that I found was from Fox News, which bore the title: “Atheist Group Blasts Postal Service for Mother Teresa Stamp.”  From what I’ve read about the event, this is true.  Unfortunately, many in the blogosphere have neglected to include the word “group,” suggesting that all atheists are in fact against this new, postage-related development:

Patrick Madrid: “Atheists ‘go postal’ over new Mother Teresa stamp”

Right Pundits: “Mother Teresa Stamps Spark Controversy with Atheists”

Belief.net: “Sticky problem: atheists slam Mother Teresa stamp”

World Net Daily: “Atheists attack Mother Teresa”

To be fair, these are all very right-leaning websites that cater to their American Conservative audience, which is comprised of a strong Christian base, so it shouldn’t be surprising then that they have lumped one atheist group into the entire population of all atheists.  But, it doesn’t make it right.  And not all conservative blogs make this error, either:  The Christian Post reports on this with the headline of “Anti-Religion Group Chides USPS Over Mother Teresa Stamp.”  (But the author wastes no time marginalizing the atheists and agnostics as “freethinkers,” complete with snarky quotes around the word, in the first line of the story.)

A simple omission of the word “group” with regard to this story changes the tone and substance drastically.  It also removes much of the author’s credibility by revealing a very obvious bias off the bat.  And given how ridiculous the opposition to a Mother Teresa stamp is to just about everyone not part of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, it wouldn’t take much to show that they don’t have much credibility on these postage matters (given that they didn’t oppose MLK, Jr.’s stamp, apparently, because he was involved in civil rights and just-so-happened to be a minister).  But when it’s reduced to an attack on all atheists as a group, the retort fails as well.

When your opposition already makes themselves look ridiculous and marginalized, there’s no point in bringing yourself down with them.

(H/T Hot Air)

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Fox News’ Fair and Balanced Coverage

01.15.10

Here is a screen capture from today’s Yahoo! homepage:

Notice the banner at the top has been augmented to provide easy access to sending aid to Haiti.  The lead story is of Rush Limbaugh and his soulless, pathetic statements implying that we shouldn’t be helping anyone out in the aftermath of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that has left over 3 million people homeless.  Real heartwarming stuff.

Here is a screen capture from today’s Fox News homepage:

Nothing above the fold or after that mentions anything at all to do with Rush.  Apparently their version of fair and balanced is that they only support, never criticize, those who support the GOP.  They take care of their own.

I figured that Fox News must have run something about the Limbaugh outrage going on right now, so I ran a search.  The very first article is an Entertainment story of actress Maria Bello feeling “very sad” for Limbaugh:

No disrespect to Maria Bello, but she doesn’t exactly have all that much clout when she voices her opinion.  This feels way more like Fox simply running a story that they can point to and say, “No, we ran a story that was against Rush Limbaugh.  We’re fair and balanced,” rather than actually run a story of substance.  This isn’t even in the politics section.  Then again, Rush Limbaugh is merely an entertainer (if you find his bile, bigotry, and blatant disregard for humanity entertaining) with nothing more than a high school diploma to his name, so perhaps this is the best spot for articles about him after all.

The next three articles in the search are:

Something about Limbaugh, the musical? Really? Another Maria Bello article (since when is she relevant?).  And then an article about how Limbaugh may have grounds for a libel suit.

Just more fair and balanced reporting on the news of the day from your favorite theocrats over at Fox News.

UPDATED:

I can already envision the rebuttals from the GOP side to this post would be something along the lines of that Yahoo! should be spending their time reporting on the actual disaster rather than blasting a Republican voice, which would go in line with their whole liberal MSM bias myth.  The reality is that Fox News is dreadfully lagging behind their competition in Haiti earthquake coverage.

(Image courtesy TwitPic from @ebertchicago)