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ERRORS AND NO FACTS: Business as Usual at Fox News

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The Shirley Sherrod case further deepens Fox News Channel's credibility problem, which is good news for the Obama Administration.


It won't happen again. I promise! by Bill@foxnoise

Trust me on this one. Just as soon as a Fox News Channel political commentator announces that the earth is flat -- and one way or another, Fox will indeed "break" that story -- the first thing anyone in America who swears by Fox will do is instruct their children not to stray too close to earth's edge. Then immediately after, they'll unleash an attack on the conservative-hating egg-heads of the liberal media for ignoring the flat earth story in favor of all that reporting on the "global warming hoax."

Hyperbole? No doubt. But only if we're talking about the word many Fox News viewers would use to describe any report that warns of climate change. Still think it's a stretch? Well, consider the following:

Months after the passage of healthcare reform, aren't Fox viewers still deep into their belief in death panels? Don't many go bananas when someone suggests that water-boarding is a virtually useless torture procedure and not part of a set of potently-productive, yet people-friendly "enhanced" interrogation protocols? Is there a hard-core Fox upholder to be found who wouldn't wager his or her first born that we've elected a Kenyan as our current president?

Who among the network's true believers summarily rejects any notion that among presidents, Bill Clinton was a disaster; that Ronald Reagan was a savior; and that one day, Sarah Palin will become our greatest? Aren't most Fox News Channel loyalists adamant that the pervasiveness of the two-member New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia was sufficient to steal the election for Obama? Don't they insist that ACORN works alongside pimps in trafficking underage hoochies? Don't they still believe that Shirley Sherrod is racist?

By now, I think you've got the point. We're talking sub-intelligent design -- sedulously cooked up by Rupert Murdoch. At this juncture in Fox News Channel's history, who would argue that beliefs along such lines can be avoided by those who quench their thirst for knowledge with the steady stream of low-facts kool-aid served up at Fox? If you still believe that a human brain cannot be put on a diet, just keep your flat-screen tuned away from every cable network in the universe except Fox for a while. Become a disciple. Be a culture warrior like Bill O'Reilly. Set yourself up in the Fox trap for a spell and just feel the atrophy happen.

The No-Facts Zone

My basic view of the Fox News Channel's content -- particularly that delivered by its political commentators -- is best summed up as being both good and original. The problem is that the good stuff isn't original and the original stuff isn't good. In fact, much of it is embarrassingly mind-numbing. Which is why at some point a while back, I became obsessed with not viewing it on a regular basis. I'd become convinced that watching the Fox News Channel kills brain cells. Any attempt I made at post-broadcast pondering of an evening's worth of partisan pointlessness from the likes of Sean Hannity and most recently, Glenn Beck, had become far too overwrought; ending up in what seemed more like an unavailing exercise in senile introspection.

I'd put it this way: if facts were the wind, the Fox News Channel's boisterous segment of hard-core, wing-nut tea-baggers are the ones constantly spitting against it with no thought of the repercussions to themselves. This embrace by the network's core supporters of what seems a philosophy of anti-self-interest also seems part of Fox's nurturing process. The network's well-documented disdain for facts, apparent since virtually the moment of its inception in 1996, helps provide some insight into why a journalist with the character of the late Robert Novak -- who outside of network television made a name for himself on cable news pioneer CNN -- seemed particularly well-ensconced at the Fox News Channel.

During his pre-cable career in journalism, Novak, aka The Prince of Darkness, along with Rowland Evans, penned a syndicated column titled the Evans-Novak Political Report. Within some journalistic circles Evans and Novak were referred to as "Errors and No Facts" based on claims of shoddy journalism. Thusly, in 2005, when he became part of the Fox line-up, the ethics-challenged Novak discovered his natural habitat. Since Fox viewers have repeatedly demonstrated that hard facts -- just like deficits amassed under Republican administrations -- simply don't matter, Novak's success at Fox could have been easily pre-ordained.

Most recently, Fox's issues with journalistic integrity have been evident by the obvious cognitive tumult that pits the reality of Medicare as a government-run health program against the general attitude toward the government held by many regular Fox News Channel viewers. During last summer's healthcare Town Halls, many Medicare recipients who are members of the Tea Party issued the obviously superfluous demand that Obama "keep the government out of their healthcare." Since they knew not what they demanded, Obama of course, made no effort to give them what they were in effect calling for; the elimination of government support for Medicare. Instead, he oversaw an expansion of health care coverage to a wider group of Americans including perhaps, many of his critics' own sons and daughters, as well as to people just like many tea-partiers -- older non-retirees. Perhaps someday, they will thank him.

There's yet another inconvenient truth which should be inescapably apparent to any Fox News-inspired, "anti-tax patriot" who has bothered to take a close look at his or her federal tax withholdings since Obama took office. Under President Obama, the tax rate for middle-class Americans is the lowest it's been in 50 years; a fact that somehow fails to register with the mobs of tea-baggers running around the country screaming that President Obama is a Constitution-shredding "transfer of wealth" socialist.

Again, much of the credit for these kinds of perverse misinterpretations of reality belongs to the Fox News Channel. The network has somehow been able to maintain the number one position among cable news outlets by successfully spinning what amounts to a heterodox version of "journalism; fair and balanced" into mainstream legitimacy. And, it has remained successful at it despite being repeatedly outed for what can only be considered journalistic fraud.

The Sherrod fiasco obviously represents the latest episode. Fox, alone among networks, made the journalistic, or better yet, asinine decision to extend the reach of its broadcasting power, "credibility" and influence by energizing -- initially via Fox's own website -- the already viral dissemination of a nearly quarter-century-old video edited to portray Sherrod as a racist that was provided to Glenn Beck by an individual apparently stupid enough to believe it could be pulled off. It should be nobody's guess why. It would be preposterous for anyone to assert that a credible news organization, so relentless in promoting itself as a provider of "real journalism; fair and balanced" could possibly overlook carrying out a responsibility as fundamental as fact-checking; a task even a draft news item must undergo.

But for Fox, the edited version of the Sherrod tape (the full version can be found here) aligned so well with its current narrative of heightened racial polarization in Obama's America stemming from an epidemic of animosity toward whites by African-Americans. And apparently, years of Fox's in-your-face effort to create the perception of credibility was obviously sufficient -- in this instance --to warrant an assumption by anyone having bought into that myth that the network had properly vetted the video -- that it was bulletproof. What critics have found both appalling and inexplicable was how some considered to be sophisticated enough to know better --specifically, the NAACP, but just as significantly, the Agriculture Department and the White House -- wound up being "snookered" by Fox right along with that network's regular viewers.

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Anthony Barnes, of Boston, Massachusetts, is a free-lance writer who leans toward the progressive end of the political spectrum. "When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to (more...)
 

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Fox News is the toy department of broadcast journa... by Anthony Barnes on Sunday, Aug 1, 2010 at 10:07:54 AM
Pathetic is the only word I find that comes close ... by Donald on Sunday, Aug 1, 2010 at 12:28:39 PM
A quick thought on the attitude exhibited by the p... by Donald on Sunday, Aug 1, 2010 at 1:10:47 PM
Interesting point, Donald. It kind of sounds like ... by Anthony Barnes on Sunday, Aug 1, 2010 at 10:46:11 PM
Where I live, Fox is not on the satellite - so for... by Doc "Old Codger" McCoy on Sunday, Aug 1, 2010 at 11:54:39 PM
You are describing rationing of health care, not d... by Steven Leser on Tuesday, Aug 3, 2010 at 10:21:18 AM
I am using a description concocted by Betsey McCau... by Anthony Barnes on Tuesday, Aug 3, 2010 at 12:17:29 PM
Ultimately, what you are arguing is semantics. Ult... by Doc "Old Codger" McCoy on Tuesday, Aug 3, 2010 at 12:48:43 PM
...regarding semantics. For me, the most important... by Anthony Barnes on Tuesday, Aug 3, 2010 at 2:56:58 PM
Faux "News" received the reward of a first place s... by Archie on Monday, Aug 2, 2010 at 3:27:49 PM
It struck me as odd as well. It gives the impressi... by Anthony Barnes on Tuesday, Aug 3, 2010 at 7:43:47 AM